"The Grudge" (2020) Review

Reboots and sequels are a fascinating topic of discussion in the horror genre. Though the film industry has grown increasingly reliant on pre-existing films to re-adapt and create new sequels for, horror has been home to this practice for decades, with Halloween and Friday the 13th being notable examples of this practice. Though the latest Grudge film is another example of this, director Nicolas Pesce deserves full credit for putting out a respectable story that neatly balances the lore of Ju-on but still working as a stand-alone creation.

The Grudge was originally a Japanese horror film released back in 2002. Though initial reports had claimed that this latest installment would be a reboot, the story serves as more of a sidequel, as the events of this film take place after the first films in the original Japanese and American films but also concurrently with later films in the series. If you ascribe to the notion that big horror franchises are defined by their villains instead of their heroes, I can share that Kayako has a small sort-of cameo in the film.

The trailer under-sells the look of the film, which is unfortunate since more people might have been inclined to show up if the trailer had showcased the aesthetic more. The colour design is beautifully put together, with a general tendency to desaturate the hues and up the yellow tones. Colour is emotion and the editors have made intelligent choices to create the right look for this story.

There are also great choices made in the way The Grudge was filmed. There are many shots of the main characters from behind, which is a really effective way of building tension and unsettling the audience because there's an implication that they're being watched by this vengeful entity. There's also an excellent use of dolly zooms which are a great source of dramatic flair.

About mid-way through The Grudge film, things began to click in regards to how this film falls in with the deeper themes of the series since it's inception. To better understand how this revelation came about, we must look closely at a particular scene. After the lead character, Detective Muldoon, visits the haunted house while investigating a series of deaths among those that have come into contact with it she heads back to the police station to regroup. After coming out of the bathroom she makes her way into the evidence storage area.

When she sense that something is behind her, watching her, she turns around catches a glimpse of one of the victims whose death she is investigating. Naturally, this freaks her out. Being that she's at a police station where there are surveillance cameras, she goes to where the surveillance monitors are, rewinds the feed of the camera that shows the outside of the bathroom door and where you walk into the evidence storage area and she sees herself leaving the bathroom door and where you walk into the evidence storage area. On the surveillance footage, she sees herself leaving the bathroom door and shortly after that the victim she thought she saw comes out of the bathroom after her. She has another encounter with it but it disappears when one of her co-workers shows up to where she is being haunted in the station.

She attempts to explain what has just happened and brings him back to look at the surveillance feed but upon playing the footage back the murder victim is nowhere to be seen. This is when it became clear that the curse was gas lighting her, and gas lighting is a common tactic in abusers.

In the original Grudge film, the most commonly seem forms the curse takes on are Kayako and her son Toshio, with the odd appearance as the family cat. All three of them were murdered by Kayako's husband Takeo. The concept stems from traditional Japanese horror stories, in that these ghosts are vengeful spirits that were wronged in life and consequently wreak havoc on the living. This vengeance curse as it exists in The Grudge series is a symbol for the violence that people inflict on one another not solely on a grand scale with things like war, but in a more devastatingly intimate way like domestic violence.

Kayako is the victim of a violent, abusive, murderous husband. She loses her life as does her only son, as the original Japanese film paints a brutal portrait of the man who commits these acts. Hurt people hurt people, and that's exactly what happens with the Grudge curse albeit in a more exaggerated depiction since this is a horror film involving ghosts and curses. This is the most simple way of boiling down what the film is really about. It's not rational for a victim of abuse to go on a killing rampage but trauma isn't rational, and that's where the horror comes from.

This new Grudge film does largely exist as a scary story but there are little details sprinkled in that connect it to the deeper themes and layers of the original Grudge film. There is a lot of terror in The Grudge that comes from this idea that the pain people inflict on one another can very quickly spread to more victims.

For a more detailed review, including a preferable alternative to the ending, watch here:


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