Directed By Nicolas Pesce
Starring – Andrea Riseborough, Damien Birchir , Lin Shaye
The Plot – After a young mother (Tara Westwood) murders her family in her own house, a single mother (Riseborough) and young detective tries to investigate and solve the case. Later, she discovers the house is cursed by a vengeful ghost that dooms those who enter it with a violent death. Now, she runs to save herself and her son from demonic spirits from the cursed house in her neighborhood.
Rated R for disturbing violence and bloody images, terror and some adult language
– Not a remake. The biggest surprise that I gained from this movie, with one of the most cryptic movie trailers in recent memory, was that it was actually a sequel that is taking place at the same time as the 2004 American version. This not only avoids the unnecessary treatment of revamping a movie that is barely fifteen years old, but also expands the lore within those two movies, that grants a globalized feeling within this deadly curse. To my knowledge, this is the first film in the series to take place on American soil, yet remains firm in its rules of the franchise, which has carved out an inescapable helplessness for those entangled in it. There are even a few Easter Egg mentions to hardcore fans of the previous movies that the exposition uses in tying everything together, and confirming above all else that this is the third and hopefully final chapter in a contemporary horror trilogy.
– Alluring atmosphere. Similar to its predecessors, Pesce absorbs us in this toxic world, that while visually feels like it could be next door, in airborne depiction it feels caught in limbo between life and death. The director uses a combination of unorthodox color pallet and immersive sound design to convey a constant feeling of unnerving dread, that is easy to interpret for the weight it plays on these characters in this surreal circumstance. For my money, the film should’ve expanded more on this element, and less with the level of cheap scares that grew tiring around twenty minutes into the film. It proves that Pesce did his homework in establishing consistency within the atmospheric tension of those previous installments, and granted this one further enhancement for its consistent use of shadows that antagonize the audience.
– Props/make-up. There’s a surprising amount of practical effects to combat the film’s watered down computer generation, which can be seen evidently throughout the picture. It’s unfortunate that the ambiguous depiction of the death sequences don’t live up to the brutal and disgusting level of detail associated with the decay of bodily decomposition. On top of this, William Sadler’s character is given believable facial enhancements to sell a particular devastation that his character has suffered previously in the movie. It adds weight in believability that a lesser directed film would overlook or barely establish within the permanency of its injury, but here is front-and-center in illustrating an unshakeable presence that we’re constantly reminded of every time the camera cuts to him. There is definitely an homage to yesterday’s practicality with these effects, and the way they are articulated despite a limited budget cemented my single favorite aspect of originality that this film did even better than its predecessors.
– Storytelling device. Like the previous films, this one also remains faithful to the device of telling many different stories with different characters all coming in and out of this cursed landmark. The unfortunate inclusion here is that its pacing is terribly uneven between each transition, spending far too much time in the later chapters without ever visually conveying to us the importance of the establishing incident. We get visual clarity in the final twenty minutes of the film, but by then it’s too late at caring about what should be the pivotal moment in this house’s history, which in turn had a lasting effect on so many different families. The storytelling within the device is also heavily flawed, as characters listening to a tape or reading a report take us the audience through moments of the night in question that would be difficult to articulate in a police report because nobody was there when it happened, except the newly deceased. Inconsistency at its finest.
– Clumsy editing. Not since 2016’s “Suicide Squad” has a movie plagued me with such visual incoherence, to the point that it hinders such pivotal moments of terror to blank levels of abstraction for us the audience. This is because the choppy editing design lacks an air of consistency that makes it feel like anything other than one continuous editor working on it beyond the lens. For some scenes, it’s far too slow. For others, it splashes enough vibrant color and heavily frequented cuts that visually ties itself to the previous film that I mentioned above. It’s this ugly presentation that tries to enhance the thrills and unpredictability of the many jump scares, but only comes across as overcomplicating what should be strategic filmmaking, giving us a presentation that is every bit as possessed as the film’s many victims that it fights for impactful clarity.
– Characterization. There is nearly none for this movie, and what little there is can easily be interpreted from reading the film’s plot, that I typed out above. It’s been my experience that when an audience cares more about the characters, they care more about what happens to them, and this concept is rendered truthful when I realize that I was never invested in a single one of their well-beings or episodic input to where the film was headed. This makes so much of the movie a terrifying bore compared to other Grudge movies, which at least slice out an element of humanity to counter-balance the paranormal that is taking shape in many forms psychologically. This investigation itself has such little movement from what is established, and even worse, there’s never an ounce of chemistry developed between any two characters throughout the movie, which does little to fight this overwhelming temporary highlighting that each of them possess. I couldn’t make a list of three things that I learned about any of them.
– Wasted rating. There is tons of blood deposited throughout the film, just barely any violence to accentuate it. With the exception of two death scenes in the movie’s final half hour, the rest of the paranormal influence to the film is unforeseen by camera eyes, and really makes you question why this got the coveted R-rating that many other horror films can’t attain because of a man named David Blum. The formulaic method to the movie’s madness goes as follows; isolation, quiet, jump scare, cut. Rinse, wash, repeat. Funny enough, when I gave up thinking that there would be any gore to satisfy the horror movie deviant in me, that is when the two death sequences that I previously mentioned popped up. The only problem with them is that one is so brief in its blunt trauma that no blood can come of it, and the other is done from too far away to feel as effective as it naturally should have been.
– Wasted cast. The list of talented character actors and established veterans of film in “The Grudge” is every bit as puzzling as the list maintained from 2012’s “Movie 43”, but as to where the latter gave us at least the entertainment of seeing Academy recognized A-listers juggling testicles on their chin, or discussing sucking off a magic wizard, this film offers no such magic that demands their inclusion. Aside from the trio listed above, Frankie Faison, William Sadler, John Cho, Betty Gilpin, and even Academy Award nominated actress Jacki Weaver are all invited to the show, and are every bit forgettable as they are unnecessary to what the direction pulled from each of them. Shaye is easily the best, amplifying the same possessed intensity that has earned her praise in many different legendary horror franchises, but some of her line reads are so unintentionally ridiculous that I couldn’t help but laugh when I should be feeling frightened. Every one of these names contribute to the cause, and prove that no one is perfect, as this garbage will stay on their filmography records for the rest of time.
– Jump scares. At this point, I can copy and paste other horror reviews I’ve done to articulate what was wrong with this aspect of the film. If done minimally and less obvious, jump scares can have a purpose in the film. Unfortunately, that’s not the case here, as the overabundance and formulaic relevance grew tiring one act into the movie. Nothing is even remotely effective in garnering scares, and never even attempts to throw audiences off in which direction the jump will come from. In fact, the writing of these moments is so underwhelming that the horrific editing that I previously mentioned is called on to influence the intensity of the jump itself, leading to several artificial moments meant to convey paranormal intensity, but just come across as clumsy trips from entities who can’t look where they’re going. At this point, can we instill a ten jump scare limit to a film. Even that big number would be a restraint from the amount present in “The Grudge”.
– Anti-climatic. This is seen through the film’s final moments, which is a problem for an array of reasons. For one, the film’s shift ending is one that an idiot could see coming from a mile away, if even only for the holes left open if the film did end five minutes prior. Secondly, the way the film cuts abruptly inevitably dooms it for audience groaning, as it goes from physical intensity to peaceful serenity in a matter of a single solitary second. Finally, it’s the aggravation associated with having to wait through two minutes of credits, only for nothing to appear on the other side of the tunnel. It’s the emphasis of shit on a movie that Pesce knew was going to anger a lot of audiences, and it’s my warning in the review for people not to see this heap of garbage. Watch one of the classic Ju-On or Americanized Grudge films instead.
My Grade: 3/10 or F