Written and directed by Nicolas Pesce, The Grudge (2020) is a reboot of the 2004 film of the same name, which itself was a remake of a Japanese horror film titled Ju-On: The Grudge. This is the third Grudge film since 2004, not counting the much better Ju-On, on which these American ones have been based.

The film’s producers, Sam Raimi, Rob Tapert, and Taka Ichise are strong eyes and voices when it comes to film. The cast, as well, features greats such as Andrea Riseborough and Demián Bichir. It even has smaller roles filled by great actors such as John Cho, Betty Gilpin, and Line Shaye. None of this helps.

The sad fact is that the movie fails to deliver. It is a complete misfire and another film to cite in the knowledge that January tends to be a dumping ground for movies that kind of suck.

What Worked

The Grudge was originally presented as a reboot of the 2004 remake, but during production evolved into a sequel that takes place during and after the 2004 film. The film mostly works as a companion piece in the regard and places fairly well with the continuity of the previous films. Like the original (remake) the film presents the plights of several families dealing with vengeful ghosts in a non-linear manner. The structure of the film is perfectly fine, and the timeline makes sense. Sometimes the film goes extra steps to ensure the timeline is perfectly clear, such as rehashing an entire scene involving a body in a car just so no viewer becomes lost in a non-linear narrative.

The idea of the Grudge itself, as a curse, is interesting. It can travel anywhere and that can be something that could be very scary. I feel that in a better movie it could have been a truly terrifying concept that really works for an American audience. After all, who holds grudges better than Americans?

The marketing goes to great lengths to use this admittedly striking image… too bad it delivers no actual scares.

What Didn’t Work

I don’t think I was supposed to laugh at the movie as much as I did. None of what was supposed to be scary felt scary at all. Rather than a good ghost film, The Grudge quickly devolves into an anthology of horror cliche. Sure, some of the gore is fairly satisfying, including a fun scene with severed fingers, but nothing really stands out. The story is highly predictable, and the far superior ending didn’t even run in the US.

It is a shame, because I love ghost stories, and the idea of vengeful ghosts really appeals to me. I enjoyed the 2004 remake of Ju-On for what it was, but never cared much for the sequel. I absolutely loved Ju-On, though. This film, however, feels like it should have been made in 2008, back when people still cared about The Grudge, when there was the slightest possible demand for it. So much of the movie feels rooted in the late 2000s. Sure, it is set from 2004 to 2006, but the writing and types of scares scream of an era we’ve moved beyond.

Horror has become more sophisticated, artistic, and boundary-pushing. It’s a shame this unnecessary sequel could not do the same.

There are gloomy little girls as is necessary for a Grudge movie.

Final Impressions

A film that feels like a throwback to the relative horror dark-ages of the 2000s, The Grudge is not worth your time. It presents an interesting idea about how the titular Grudge works, but it is wrapped up in a bad movie. Perhaps it is time to settle this grudge…

1.5 out of 5 stars (1.5 / 5)

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About the Author

David Davis is a writer, cartoonist, and educator in Southern California with an M.A. in literature and writing studies.

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