Well, here we are again. Another year, another January where many studios and distributors are wrestling with the continued hype around awards season as the big prizes as they edge ever closer. January was also known to many as something of a no man’s land, a time when those films that don’t have too much support from said studios get dumped (mostly horror, strangely) with little or no fanfare, but the buck has changed in recent times with Bad Boys For Life becoming a huge success this month when it seemed for all the world it wasn’t going to work. We have another dose of scary goings on this month as is the norm, and this is just one of them.
Something of a reimagining rather than straight remake, The Grudge is the latest in a long line of similar films that comes to the screen via Sam Raimi‘s Ghost House production studio and a pretty gripping trailer that went down a storm last year. Sadly, as is becoming more and more frequent, it’s a case of all the “good” stuff was in said tease with nothing much left over to fill this ones runtime, in fact it’s hard to pick out anything from this dull endeavour.
Taking its cue from the 2002 original with a splash of the US remake from two years later, this one tells a few adjoining stories across a few years that all revolve around a spooky house in rural America: detective Muldoon (Andrea Riseborough) investigating a dead body found in a dump car in the forest with her new partner Goodman (Demian Bechir) who may know more than he lets on: real estate parents-to-be (John Cho and Betty Gilpin) who are trying to sell the same house; a married couple of fifty years (Frankie Faison and Lin Shaye) dealing with the after effects and stresses of illness.
The biggest problem with The Grudge, as with countless other horrors, is that for the most part almost all the characters end up making decisions that no sane human being would ever make: shall we go up the scary stairs even though we know we shouldn’t? Should we stick our head in a bath full of water when seconds before the sight and smell repulsed us? Shall we go do the exact opposite of what we have been told? Ok, the last one is the most likely given humanity’s need to rebel but the rest is right. How are we supposed to be scared or invested in our characters and their relationships when nothing that happens is what would actually happen? Cheap jump scares and lazy writing, that’s how.
The pedigree involved here should have been more than capable of coming up with something fresher and more thoughtful than this but such is the desire to go down the route it does undermines it’s filmmakers and pretty stellar cast, such a shame. The film was met with pretty dire reviews on its US release a few weeks ago and it’s hard to disagree: The Grudge 2020 is the epitome of a January horror film (nay, film, period) that seemed like a good idea at the time and now it’s too late to really do anything but recoup what they can. It’s only early, but this is easily one of the biggest disappointments of the year.
Horror, Mystery | USA, 2020 | 15 | 24th January 2020 (UK) | Sony Pictures Releasing | Dir.Nicolas Pesce | Andrea Riseborough, Demián Bichir, Lin Shaye, Junko Bailey, John Cho, Betty Gilpin