Sliding Sideways: Our Review of ‘The Grudge’ (2020)

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - January 03, 2020
Sliding Sideways: Our Review of ‘The Grudge’ (2020)

No matter which way you spin it, sometimes things just don’t need to happen…

It’s common place when a hot indie director ends up doing his first studio film it’s usually something that was placed on him rather than an original idea from the storyteller in question.  Sadly this holds true with The Grudge because even though it’s got a loaded ensemble and some very slick production design allowing for a very creepy vibe to set in, this version of The Grudge is still too much like it’s predecessor’s; a little dull, dower and only a little bit scary.

After a young mother murders her family in her own house, a single mother and young detective (Andrea Riseborough) 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.

There’s some undeniable talent from this studio debut by writer/director Nicholas Pesce as this sort of sideways reboot isn’t necessarily all that scary, but much like the original J-Horror classic J-Uon it’s undeniably grim, but it keeps us engaged thanks to some great camera and design work as well as a completely over qualified ensemble cast to let the story unfold.

Pesce is certainly no slouch when it comes to creating an image.  The narrative flows at an appropriately dour pace (not unlike the original) and it looks like a million bucks with some classic production design moments, great use of light and shadow to make the occasional jump scare moment that while predictable still work reasonably well but that’s not the problem here.

This is just inherently such a downer of a story that you have to be OK with that going in.  When you look at it all objectively, even with some of the tweaks that we’re made for this updated adaptation, there’s just no happy ending in sight on this one and it makes for a fairly painful experience no matter how well Pesce and his team can shine the material up.

With an ensemble that includes Andrea Riseborough, Demian Bechir, Frankie Faison, Jacki Weaver, John Cho, Peri Gilpin, William Sadler and Lin Shaye to say that this is over cast would be the understatement of the century.  Everyone gets a fair bit of work to do and Pesce gives them all a little bit of scenery to chew but none of it really plays all that well.

Riseborough is fine in the lead and can play desperate on the verge of a breakdown as well as anyone; Sadler and Shaye tear up the scenery in small but vital roles while everyone else carries their weight.  However, when you’re only 10 minutes in to a movie and you already know where everything it going to go for each of your characters, it makes for a bit of a tired ride.

At the end of the day, The Grudge is just a bummer, just like the one with Sarah Michelle Gellar was and just like the original Japanese one was.  While it gives hope of what Nicholas Pesce might be capable given how slick it all looks with some tweaks to the narrative, but this movie just didn’t need to exist.

  • Release Date: 1/3/2020
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David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like, Criticize This, Dork Shelf (Now That Shelf), to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema.
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