The news about the release of The Grudge (2020) came as a surprise because I really didn’t think this was a story worth retelling (again). During 2000-2010, there was an influx of Asian films reimagined for American audiences. Titles like The Grudge (2004), The Ring (2002), and Shutter (2008). After the disappointment that was Rings in 2017, I was fully expecting something of that ilk. The Grudge (2020) instead takes a different route and employs a format atypical to these types of films. Accordingly, it brings a lot more to the table than I was expecting.
The Grudge (2020) picks up after the events of the original film, with no acknowledgement of The Grudge 2 (2006) and for good reason (but that’s another story). The curse has traveled internationally and is now wreaking havoc on a small Pennsylvania town. It is there that we meet Homicide Detective Muldoon (played by Andrea Riseborough of Birdman). Muldoon has recently moved to the municipality and soon thereafter, stumbles upon a house tied to a number of sinister occurrences.
One thing that really stood out to me about the film was the performances from the core cast. The genuine showings from each key player made the onscreen dynamic believable and drew me into the world depicted within.
Aside from the performances, the best aspect of The Grudge (2020) is the creative narrative style. This film cleverly uses the case file to tie the story together. As Muldoon finds more information about the case, rather than have her read out the reports or discuss it with a peer, we are shown what happened via flashback sequences. This makes the backstory much more horrifying and provides a sense of attachment to the victims.
The film’s stylistic presentation was also remarkably pleasant. The cinematography was stunning and the sound engineers really knocked it out of the park. Instead of hitting the viewer over the head with spooky music to build tension, the sound fades out and zeroes in on heavy breathing, footsteps, or the clink of a buckle holster being undone. This approach is utilized not only during moments of tension but is also employed throughout the film’s runtime, which creates a constant sense of unease. And that blurs the lines between cinema and reality. After all, there is no score playing in the background when you walk down a dark alley at night.
Overall, The Grudge (2020) does a good job paying homage to the original and continues the story in interesting and enjoyable ways. My only complaint is that (at times) it relies too heavily on the original without branching out a whole lot. The film is a respectable entry in the franchise, but did we really need it in the first place?
WICKED RATING: 6/10
Director(s): Nicolas Pesce
Writer(s): Nicolas Pesce
Stars: Andrea Riseborough, Demián Bichir, Zoe Fish
Release: In theaters now
Studio/ Production Co: Screen Gems, Stage 6 Films, Ghost House Pictures