The Grudge (2020) follows a handful of families spanning several years as they are haunted by the rage of Kayako's ghost. As the stories unfold, two detectives attempt to solve a series of deaths centered around a single home.
The Grudge (2020) Review
What is there to say about a completely unnecessary remake of a remake? The Grudge (2020) is a remake of the 2004 iteration, which was itself an American remake of Ju-on. Remakes of foreign films tend to have an advantage over time-based remakes because they can be shot-for-shot rehashes and still bring something "new" to an audience unfamiliar with the foreign original, offering little more than cultural appeasement and the English language. Time-based remakes don't have that luxury. They have to try. And this latest attempt to keep the vengeful spirit of Kayako going simply doesn't appear to try much at all.
There is a balance that must be struck with remakes. They have to find balance between respectful homage and fresh creative freedoms. This does neither, ripping off scenes that actually end up being the weakest of the original (one referenced in our comic above) and going nowhere with the creative freedoms. The pacing and overall plot structure are mundane, predictable and formulaic. The sets of victims spread out across a period of time leads only to an incredibly dull first hour that slow-pitches its scares like jokes from a canceled sitcom.
Perhaps the only three redeemable qualities come in the form of the sound design, a witty scene, and one scare that conjures feelings of James Wan. The sound design sprinkled Kayako's signature groan into everyday occurrences, like a car engine or an old door opening, which could leave the viewer uneasy when there were no visual cues. The film also seemingly had a joke poking fun at Netflix's Haunting of Hill House and its morally ambiguous ending. It was cleverly delivered, so much so that I have my doubts whether or not an otherwise cowardly production could be that witty. It could just be a coincidence I mistakenly picked up on.
The film overall feels like a dulled version of the sharp American remake, almost like it was made for those who couldn't handle the terror of Kayako. This is particularly frustrating because this was an R-rated take. The assumption could easily be made that we were expecting to witness Kayako's kills, but instead we get lame moments of perceivable accidents that were almost all committed in CG in post-production. In fact, this movie feels like a rare instance of a PG-13 movie converted to R in post, rather than the other way around. It is fairly common, much to the chagrin of horror fans, to see an R-rated film get neutered to PG-13 to reach a wider audience. This film seemed to do the opposite, the strongest evidence being the aforementioned CG violence and the obligatory solo F-bomb that is a regularly a running gag in PG-13 movies.
2020 is not off to a great start when it comes to horror. This remake of a remake should basically never left the ideation room. Not only was it entirely unnecessary, but it was poorly conceived and executed worse. The scares were bland, the plot unoriginal, and the whole thing seems completely contrived and devoid of style. Here's to hoping that Underwater will pick things up this weekend, though I'm not holding my breath.