The Grudge 2020 Movie Full Review

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The Grudge 2020 Movie Full Review | This year in the film starts with a tricky prospect—a brutal arthouse director handling a studio project (good) that’s also the second American remake of a half-scary 2002 Japanese movie (not promising). Can you recommend a horror movie based on its impressive meanness? Meet Nicolas Pesce’s new and improved take on “The Grudge,” which is often as nasty as you want it to be, its cheesy jump-scares and generic packaging be damned. 

Based on the original script by Takashi Shimizu (who did the 2004 American remake of his film “Ju-on”), Pesce’s script is still about a Japanese home that is cursed by a murder that happened in extreme rage, and the supernatural entity that travels with anyone who has been in the home (in this version, an American woman brings it stateside before the opening credits). More than worrying about whos-who in a new saga of cursed people, Pesce orchestrates a dense, foreboding atmosphere, where unlucky souls have to manage their own oppressive sadness, along with the shadowy, space-invading entities that pop up in the dark.

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One of the first things you notice about this movie is how bleak it is—characters are introduced with the brutal cards life has dealt them, the kind no one wants to receive. Take Andrea Riseborough’s Detective Muldoon, who has recently moved to the new town of Cross River because her husband has just died of cancer. She learns about a house on 44 Reyburn Drive which has connections to other since-buried murder cases in town, like one from 2005 involving a real estate agent named Peter (John Cho) and his wife Nina (Betty Gilpin)—we meet them as they get life-shattering news about the baby she’s carrying, and they spend the duration of the movie with it lingering between their silences. The gut-punch of their arc then doesn’t come from supernatural shenanigans that follow Peter, so much as what happens one night when he leaves the Reyburn home. 

 

For good measure, the film also features a plot-line about a Reyburn resident (Frankie Faison) who wants to euthanize his loving wife of nearly 50 years (with the help of a “compassionate presence” played by Jacki Weaver) because of her deteriorating mental state. And he wants to do so in the Reyburn home because of his pitiful desperation to harness the property’s tenuous boundaries with life and death. Faison bottles up a lot of pain in a brief monologue, and it’s one of many moments in which “The Grudge” labors on storytelling parts that are often thankless in less inspired horror fare.

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Pesce’s “The Grudge” gets a lot of mileage out of the unsettling spectacle of suffering, perhaps best encapsulated by a scene that introduces horror legend, Lin Shaye. She’s initially only heard as the wailing voice of a woman inside the shadowy Reyburn house, as someone steps inside wanting to see what the fuss is about. Shaye’s back is turned but her cries are palpable and nightmarish, and that’s before she steps forward and into the light, and we get to see her hands. In this well-calibrated scene, Pesce then leads us to another one of his signature freaky images of life’s abandonment—a meticulously gnarly corpse, illuminated by the sudden fuzz of a TV screen. 

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