Tuesday, January 21, 2020

It Came From The Cineplex: The Grudge (2020)

There's a lot going on this month, so I don't have time for the usual lengthy review. I've nothing much to say about this film anyway, so enjoy this Micro Review!

The Grudge (2020) was written and directed by Nicolas Pesce. He previously wrote and directed The Eyes Of My Mother and Piercing, neither of which I've ever heard of.

Based on the title, I assumed this film was a reboot of the American version of The Grudge. Turns out it's actually sort of a "loose" sequel to The Grudge and The Grudge 2, as it contains fleeting references to both films.

Meh. Reboot, sequel, whatever. The Grudge 2020 is so lifeless and instantly forgettable that it disappeared from my brain by the time I walked back to my car. Rarely have I encountered a movie that's so bereft of ideas and entertainment. I can barely even muster the energy to give it a poor grade due to how little it registered with me. It's like trying to critique a screensaver.

The movie was produced by Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert (among ten others), who brought us The Grudge and The Grudge 2. This dream team has produced a ton of wonderful schlock over the years, including Evil Dead, Evil Dead 2, Timecop, Boogeyman, 30 Days Of NightDrag Me To Hell and Evil Dead (2013), as well as Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess for TV.

There was a period when seeing their names on a project meant you were in for a good time at the cineplex or in front of your TV. Based on the quality of this film, that time has passed. I'm starting to think seeing their names in the credits is a reason to flee the cineplex, rather than flock to it!

The original American The Grudge was a massive box office smash, grossing a whopping $187 million worldwide against its ridiculously tiny budget of $10 million (!). The Grudge 2 didn't do quite as well, as it made just $70 million worldwide against its $20 million budget.

Apparently audiences have a grudge (get it?) against this film, and are actively and wisely steering clear of it. So far The Grudge 2020 has only managed to scare up $30 million worldwide against its $14 million budget. Looks like it's time to put this franchise out to pasture.


The Plot:
The movie jumps back and forth in time as it follows four different storylines. In order to avoid unnecessary confusion, I'm arranging the events chronologically. For some reason, the whole movie takes place in the early 2000s.

Fiona Landers is a live-in nurse working at a home in Tokyo. She's convinced the house is haunted by a supernatural Curse and decides to get the hell out and return to the States. As she leaves, she encounters the ghosts of Kayako and Toshio, who appeared in the previous Grudge movies.

Fiona returns to her home on 44 Reyburn Drive, located in Cross Rivers, Pennsylvania. She's reunited with her husband Sam and daughter Melinda. Unfortunately she becomes possessed by the Curse and murders her family before killing herself.

Detectives Goodman and Wilson investigate the murders. Goodman senses something wrong, and refuses to even step foot in the house. Wilson enters and looks around, becoming infected by the Curse.

As Wilson exits the house he sees Fiona's ghost outside. This causes him to freak out and shoot himself in the head. Amazingly he survives, but his face is horribly disfigured and he's committed to an asylum. Goodman's so unnerved by the ordeal that he stops investigating the case.

Later In 2004
Real estate agents Peter and Nina Spencer discover their unborn child has a rare genetic disorder. Nina's upset by the news, but Peter tells her they can work through any problem together.

He stops by the Landers house on 44 Reyburn Drive to get some papers signed, unaware that they've all been killed by Fiona. When no one answers the door, he uses his realtor key to enter. He encounters the ghost of Melinda, and thinks she's been abandoned by her parents (???). Melinda attacks him, infecting him with the Curse.

Peter returns home, where Nina tells him she's decided to keep their baby. He kills her and is drowned in the bathtub by the Curse.

Elderly couple William and Faith Matheson move into house on 44 Reyburn Drive. Faith (played by the awesome Lin Shaye) suffers from both dementia and an unidentified terminal illness. She's infected by the Curse and begins seeing the ghost of Melinda. William calls in Lorna Moody, an assisted suicide specialist, to "help" Faith.

Lorna's immediately infected by the Curse and begins seeing ghosts around the house. She urges William to leave, but he says he's aware of the ghosts and says it gives him hope that he and Faith will be together again after death. Later on Lorna sees Faith in the kitchen, seemingly fixing dinner. She's horrified to see Faith is actually chopping off her fingers after having killed William.

Lorna flees the house and roars off in her car. She's attacked by the ghost of Fiona's husband Sam (?) and runs off the road. She crashes into a tree and is killed instantly.

Detective Muldoon (no first names please) and her young son Burke move to Pennsylvania after the death of her husband. She's partnered with Detective Goodman, who seems less than thrilled at the idea. They investigate an abandoned car in the woods, and find the desiccated body of Lorna inside.

Muldoon discovers that Lorna had been visiting the Mathesons in the house on 44 Reyburn Drive. Goodman tells her the house is cursed, and to stay far away from it.

Of course Muldoon ignores him, and immediately goes to the house. Inside she finds Faith, who's somehow been living on her own for an entire year (!). Of course Muldoon's infected by the Curse.

Faith's taken to the hospital, where she ends up jumping off a balcony and killing herself. Muldoon begins seeing the ghosts of the Landers family. She visits Wilson in the asylum, and he tells her that anyone who enters the house becomes cursed and starts hallucinating the dead. He then becomes hysterical, gouging out his eyes in an effort to stop seeing the ghosts around him.

Muldoon asks Goodman what he knows about the Curse, and he tells her that Fiona brought it over from Japan. Later on Muldoon and Burke are attacked in their home by the Landers ghosts. Fed up, Muldoon goes to the house on 44 Reyburn Drive and burns it to the ground. Muldoon's confident that this action has broken the Curse.

Sometime later Muldoon gives Burke a hug before he goes off to school. She's horrified when she hears the real Burke tell her goodbye and skip out of the house. She looks down and sees she's hugging the host of Melinda. She's dragged away screaming by the ghosts.

We then get a silent, five minute shot of Muldoon's house. Which is also the former home of the Spencers, meaning the Curse is alive and well in a new location.

• There's really not much to say about this movie, so this'll be brief. 

• Looking over my plot synopsis, I realized I made the movie seem far more interesting than it actually is. Sorry about that. Believe me, it's worse. Much, much worse.

• Earlier I said that for some reason, the movie inexplicably takes place in the early 2000s instead of the present day. The likely reason for this setting is because the two earlier Grudge movies took place in 2004 and 2006, respectively.

I'm depressed to see that movies set in the early 2000s are now considered period pieces.

• I was surprised to see The Grudge is rated R, rather than the typical watered-down PG-13 that most horror movies get these days. Good! I'm all for R-rated horror! That said, I'm puzzled here. Other than one brief scene of gore involving Faith Matheson, there's really nothing in the film to warrant an R.

• Detective Muldoon was played by Andrea Riseborough, who previously played the titular character in the Nicolas Cage epic Mandy. Wow. How the mighty have fallen. From an awesome movie like Mandy to this dredge.

• The only actor who escapes the film unscathed is veteran scream queen Lin Shaye, who plays Faith Matheson. As always she's amazing here, bringing a small flicker of life to this otherwise DOA film. Shaye's like a female Vincent Price, and can elevate any role in even the worst film.

• Speaking of Faith, how the hell did she survive in her house for an entire year? She gets cursed and kills her husband William sometime in 2005. Muldoon investigates her home and discovers she's still rattling around inside in 2006!

We're talking about a woman with both dementia and a life threatening illness. There's no way she could have toddled off to the grocery for supplies or even ordered food in. Apparently the Mathesons had a very well-stocked pantry! And what about medicine for whatever disease that's allegedly killing her? Didn't think of that, did ya, screenwriter?

• Early in the movie, Muldoon and Goodman find a wrecked car in the woods containing a dead, desiccated body. Late in the third act, Lorna's attacked by the Curse and drives her car off the road, crashing it into a tree. This scene actually takes place before the Muldoon and Goodman investigation, and explains who was in the car they found.

Apparently the filmmakers were afraid we wouldn't get it, so they helpfully replay the entire scene of Muldoon & Goodman finding the car. Thanks for the assist, movie! There's no way I'd have been able to connect those complex dots by myself. 

It's not often I feel insulted by a movie, but The Grudge managed it.The Grudge 2020 is a dull, lifeless and instantly forgettable waste of a film, as each of its ninety four scare-free minutes feels like an hour. The original films were far from perfect, but they seem like classic cinema compared to this dumpster fire. I've honestly seen more interesting plot developments and drama among my clothing as it tumbles around in the dryer. The only bright spot is the presence of veteran scream queen Lin Shaye, but even she can't save this cineturd. It's been a long time since I've given a film a D+, but I can't think of one that deserves it more.

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