For this forth American remake/reboot of Takashi Shimizu’s Japanese horror Ju-on franchise, Nicolas Pesce has orchestrated a disappointingly generic film that doesn’t ever justify its existence and is criminally low on original scares. It’s a shame, as Pesce’s 2016 directorial debut, The Eyes Of My Mother, was a uniquely disturbing beast and his involvement (as well as Sam Raimi’s, here on production duties), promised much more than the average January-dump horror cash-grab.
The story, which presents itself as something of a continuation, still revolves around a supernatural entity who curses houses. It has set up camp at 44 Reyburn Drive and there, the malevolent spirit will use every tropey scare in the book to torment a bunch of unlucky souls, which include Andrea Riseborough’s recently widowed detective Muldoon, her chainsmoking partner Goodman (Damián Bechir), and real estate agent Peter (John Cho). This embarrassingly good cast do their best with Pesce’s clunky screenplay, but they ultimately work with what they’re given: recycled set pieces, half-baked scares, and a frustrating time-hopping structure borrowed from previous instalments in the series.
Strangest of all, the film actually picks up towards the end, when the multiple timelines coalesce quite satisfyingly and matters of grief and the afterlife are discussed. But by that point, chances are you’ll be giggling too loudly at the telegraphed jump-scares or too bored to care.
The Grudge | Directed by Nicolas Pesce (US, 2020), with Andrea Riseborough, Damián Bechir, John Cho, Jackie Weaver. Starts Jan 9.
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