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  Grudge, The Misery Awaits
Year: 2020
Director: Mark Pesce
Stars: Andrea Riseborough, Demián Bichir, John Cho, Frankie Faison, Lin Shaye, Jacki Weaver, William Sadler, Betty Gilpin, Tara Westwood, Zoe Fish, Joel Marsh Garland, Bradley Sawatzky, Nancy Sorel, Ray Strachan, Adam Brooks, David Lawrence Brown, Junko Bailey
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: In 2004, Fiona (Tara Westwood) walked out of a house in Tokyo and contacted her boss on her phone to tell him she was leaving the employ of the family who lived there: she had been spooked by a presence in the place, and was further alarmed when something seemed to be standing behind her and arms emerged from the garbage bags resting against the front wall of the house. But what she did not know was she was bringing back something with her to The United States, a curse, effectively, which followed all who encountered it, making them see terrifying visions until its victims were eventually hounded to their deaths. But what if there were someone who could break it?

The Grudge was the 2020 version of... The Grudge, the 2004 film they had not bothered to change the title of for this optimistic reboot, though the fact of its production was the only optimistic element about it. The most defining characteristic of Takashi Shimizu's franchise had been its relentlessly downbeat nature, as there was really no escape from whatever the curse had in store for you, since it was a sort of metaphor for the inevitability of your death, anybody's death in fact. There is nothing you can do to escape The Grudge, because that is death, which comes to all living things. It was just that in these films, there was a lot of torment involved before that arrived.

Torment taking the form of being harried by visions of ghosts, past victims of the curse who are trapped into doing its bidding, assuming its bidding is no more than messing with the heads of those "infected". The signature Grudge character Kayako made a very brief appearance at the beginning of this, but there seemed to be a conscious decision to keep this as Western as possible, so the closest to an Asian face we saw once in America was John Cho's, playing a father to be who has heard some very bad news about the baby from his the doctor of his wife (Betty Gilpin). As you could tell from that story thread, a barrel of laughs this reboot/sequel was not, nothing funny here.

That overriding tone was one of despair, which in the previous films had been a source of the chills, but Shimizu had nothing to do with this Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert-produced item, so the man in charge was Nicholas Pesce, a cult up-and-comer who had two fan favourites under his belt, one of which had been incredibly serious in atmosphere, the other of which had displayed a sense of humour, but one that was incredibly grim and twisted. Here the echoes of his first horror were resounding around The Grudge, though not so much that he refused to downplay the connections as past setpieces were revived in strangely faithful fashion, when you might ordinarily have expected a man of his talents to have conjured up a more original set of scares for this take on a fairly repetitive series.

Pesce did secure an interesting cast, many of whom were either middle-aged or older, so for example Jacki Weaver appeared in the 2005 section - there were three sections, '04, '05 and '06 - as an end of life carer who tackled Frankie Faison's issues with his dementia-addled wife Lin Shaye, all of whom had experience in the horror genre and performed very well. There was not a dud performance here, top-billed Andrea Riseborough dyed blonde and adopting an American accent as a widowed single mother portrayed with some skill, and uncovering the curse with miserable, fellow cop Demián Bichir (whose real-life wife committed suicide around the time this was made, just to add to the misery). It was professionally done all round, yet seemed somewhat unnecessary when Grudge films were more or less the same, but if you wanted a perfectly serviceable, jump-scare-filled chiller where you knew what was going to happen from the start, and what would happen would not be good for the characters, then this fit the bill. Music by The Newton Brothers.

[The Sony Blu-ray has three featurettes (one on the Easter Eggs) and deleted scenes as extras.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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