With many fans expecting The Grudge in 2009 to split the 4th chapter Sony opted to peel back from the sisters and go into the soft reboot zone, following the third film in 2009.
The current film, directed by Nicholas Pesce, coincides with the first US remake in 2004 in Pennsylvania, while Kayako strikes in Japan. In the past couple of years, though, following technical advances and a swell over Hollywood’s horror genre, The Grudge in 2020 fails to capture the charm of the original remake and, for some reason, is much worse.
Secondly, there is no originality in this new film when it comes to Kayako. When writer/director Takashi Shimizu did the American rework, he smartly retained the horror elements in the Ju-On series. The mainstream entertainment industry could get a real ghoul in the form of a kayak.
She was a pale-skin, hairy, and visually striking force to be counted as an assassinated housewife who tried to take revenge and threatened others by murdering them after they visited her house. She was very iconic. She was distorting and even wild in walls to scare and frighten us in a way we weren’t in The Exorcist since Linda Blair.
And the spirit didn’t even have to say a word in this case. Shimizu cleverly preserved this eerie atmosphere, both in films and also in not – for-good episodes, with the premise of Onryō, the Grudge sent chills down fan spines.
2020’s Kayako has no distinct look, though, and only seems a decaying zombie-like corpse over her face. This is one of the most significant aspects of the franchise, and the drain has been washed down. We have seen this sort of style both in movies like the last Evil Dead and in recent zombie movies, but Pesce is losing a great deal of influence, by eliminating the fears of the signature character.
She doesn’t even move around, only skulks as a puppet master in the dark, controls people, and harasses innocent people using her victims, so Kayako 2.0 doesn’t feel like she’s the main villain of the tale.
Another essential factor that kills the new film is the rip-off of many recent films, including Insidious, Sinister, The Nun, and other affiliates. It relies on dark environments, jump-scares, hallucinations that teleported away from the north and did not threaten you with demons as the first Grudge. Honestly, if this isn’t named as such, you wouldn’t realize that it’s a franchise.
The detective Goodman (Demián Bichir) does not appear to be a protagonist as the Davis sisters Sarah Michelle Gellar and Amber Tamblyn were. In the movies of Ju-On, Rica and Izumi were fighting in the same way. Still, here only Detective Muldoon (Andrea Riseborough) conducts any investigation to try to put the spirit to rest. Without good protagonists like Detective Nakagawa, it’s all a murder festival without rhyme or purpose.
In short, with a weak cast, a kayak which is a pure shade of itself, and a horrible atmosphere which is carbon copied from so many films of the genre, The Grudge is no longer a fresh air experience. It’s a typical horror film that doesn’t even show why the maligned people continue to kill even after vengeance. It is just senseless and lacks both style and substance that the originals (American and Japanese) had in sheets.