It's come to this – Hollywood has become so lazy that they've resorted to rebooting remakes. I'm sure it's been a thing, but this is the one time I noticed. I'm referring to The Grudge, the popular J-horror film series, which became an American horror film series. The first American version was released in 2004 and starred Sarah Michelle Gellar (who had just finished her series run on Buffy the Vampire Slayer). Columbia Pictures kept some continuity by hiring original Ju-On: The Grudge director Takashi Shimizu, but 2004's The Grudge was middling, at best, despite it resulting in 2 sequels (The Grudge 3, though, was a direct-to-video release in 2009). So, the demand for The Grudge wasn't there when Sony and Ghost House Pictures moved forward with a reboot.

If it's any indication what audiences would be in for, this iteration of The Grudge was in development since August 2011. Nicolas Pesce was hired in July 2017 to write and direct, and consequently rewrote a script originally penned by Jeff Buhler (who received no writing credit for the final film). So even though this took a little over 9 years to make it to the big screen the final product still looked like a rushed work-in-progress.

I'll cut to the chase - The Grudge is bad (like REAL bad) because it's simply not scary. Pesce, who gave off the impression he make films which rely on mood and tension to create more effective scares, went the cheap route by using jump scares instead. What's worse, the jump scares were telegraphed so badly that Jameis Winston makes better reads. It's unforgiveable to make a horror film that isn't scary and it wastes what is honestly a solid cast.

Speaking of which, The Grudge's cast includes Andrea Riseborough (Oblivion), Oscar nominee Demián Bichir, John Cho, Betty Gilpin (Netflix's GLOW), Lin Shaye (Insidious), Oscar nominee Jacki Weaver (Silver Linings Playbook), Frankie Faison (HBO's The Wire) and William Sadler (The Shawshank Redemption). This is a group of solid actors, although none of them are headliners (but some deserve to be despite being lifelong character actors), which means there isn't any star power to reel in viewers. The material will have to drive good word of mouth but it's likely any forthcoming buzz will be negative.

The one aspect I found interesting, though, is the multiple storylines Pesce introduced. Pesce wanted to show the curse's effect on multiple people and he did so with flashbacks. He then connected them to portray the curse as an overwhelming universal power that cannot be easily defeated. These stories could've made for separate films, if developed correctly, but at the least it provided for some gruesome deaths. But with the main story focusing on Detective Muldoon (Riseborough) we don't get enough development of her character to really care about her and her plight.

With a rumored budget of $10 million, this Grudge looked a little cheap. Pesce was quoted that he wanted this project to be “darker, grittier, and more realistic.” I understand production value will be sacrificed on such a budget (and the cheap look may have been intentional) but did cutting corners have to look this obvious? At the same time, why did the film look like it was shot 20 years ago with a cheap handheld?

What's most disappointing (outside of not enough John Cho) is that Pesce showed some promise with The Eyes of My Mother and followed that up in 2018 with Piercing, both little-seen indies which received positive reviews. This effort shows regression to the point where his budding filmmaker could see less opportunity (at least with major studios).

Regardless, seek out The Grudge at your own risk. It's unoriginal, predictable, boring and, worst of all, lacks any real scares.

2 stars out of 5


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