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Grudge (2020), The
Boy, oh, boy, this film is a piece of shit. I hate to be a hater, because director Nicolas Pesce obviously is a fan of the Japanese horror series upon which 2004's The Grudge and his 2020 reboot are based, but very little in this convoluted horror film works despite Pesce's attempts to incorporate elements from previous, more successful franchise films. Sony slaps front and center on the poster that this film is produced by Sam Raimi (The Evil Dead), but I question whether he had much involvement past cashing the paycheck he got for that nod. The cast is surprisingly good, and includes John Cho, Lin Shaye, Jacki Weaver and Andrea Riseborough, but these poor thespians are tasked with acting out Pesce's lousy, convoluted screenplay that misunderstands how to effectively use non-linear storylines. Even the jump scares do not elicit much terror, and The Grudge wastes an R rating that might have allowed for a truly terrifying psychological horror film.
This film begins in the days before the events of the 2004 The Grudge, and quick nods in the opening scene reveal that a nurse, Fiona Landers (Tara Westwood), leaving a Tokyo house is the predecessor to the help, including Sarah Michelle Gellar, from that film. She ultimately returns to America, brining with her the curse of Kayako Saeki, something most fully explored in the Japanese Ju-on films, and winds up murdering her family. This Grudge mostly follows Detective Muldoon (Riseborough) as she investigates that crime, as well as several other strange occurrences at a 44 Reyburn Drive residence in Pennsylvania. There are a couple instant problems here: The Grudge (2020) jumps into the action with little exposition in a manner not inconsistent with some of the Japanese Ju-on sequels. That might be fine in the vein of that country's filmmaking norms and in light of the collective knowledge of the Kayako curse, but it does not work here. Speaking of Kayako, she barely makes an appearance save a quick glimpse early on and a short bathtub shot midway through. Everything else is uninteresting garbage, and Pesci cannot twist and manipulate the story into anything close to watchable.
Muldoon investigates the Landers murders, as well as the fates of a Faith (Shaye) and William Matheson (Faison), an older couple who move into the house. There's also the ghost of the murdered Landers daughter (Zoe Fish); Muldoon's partner, Det. Goodman (Demian Bichir), who slips toward insanity after visiting the house; and a young couple, Peter (Cho) and Nina Spencer (Gilpin), who become involved with the curse when Peter enters the residence as a realtor. The Grudge is, quite frankly, fucking confusing, and no, I do not think any of the non-linear storytelling builds tension or mystery. The film simply presents all these characters for the slaughter without any rhyme or reason. The film never builds tension, and the Landers murders, which begin the whole shebang, are relegated to quick flashback/dream shots during the muddy climax.
Riseborough gives a good performance here and her character is actually given some minimal backstory. It is too bad Pesce and company undercut Muldoon's investigation constantly with the incessant time jumping. In one of the disc's bonus features, the director recounts all the references to franchise films within this Grudge. That is pretty cool, and suggests that he truly tried to make a decent film here. Frankly, I do not know what happened. This is one of the worst, nonsensical films released theatrically from a major studio that I have ever seen. The franchise mythology is completely muted, and this narrative is nowhere near compelling. This 2020 film makes the 2004 American remake look like a masterpiece. Steer clear, folks.
The 2.39:1/1080p/AVC-encoded image does an admirable job replicating the shadowy, dingy, often soaking wet scenery in this lousy flick. Black levels impress, as does shadow detail, and interiors offer strong fine-object detail and texture. Skin tones are natural, contrast is spot-on, and colors, what few there are, are nicely reproduced.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix tries as it might to immerse viewers in the horror, and it is of no technical fault of the mix that this film falters. Ambient and horror effects make complete use of the surrounds, the LFE comes alive frequently in an attempt to rouse viewers from boredom, and the soundtrack is weighty. Dialogue is clear and balanced appropriately, and I noticed no issues with element crowding. French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital dubs and English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles are included.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
This single-disc set includes the Blu-ray and a digital copy code. The disc is packed in a standard case that is wrapped in a slipcover. Extras include featurettes Designing Death (3:03/HD); Cast of the Cursed (3:44/HD); and Easter Egg Hunt (4:47/HD). You also get a ton of Deleted Scenes (30:07 total/HD), some of which actually appear to improve upon the story.
UUUUUHHHHGGGGGGHHHHHHhhhhhhhhhhhhhh... this film is terrible. Skip It.
William lives in Burlington, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.