For the longest time there has been only one truly scary way to breath in and The Grudge is the movie that taught us. It is also known that the coolest thing to say is the original, Ju-on: The Grudge is the bestest of them all, but I actually found the American version scarier. Even with Sarah Michelle Gellar trying to wreck it. Then there was 2 and 3, I can’t actually remember those right now but I don’t think think they were terrible.
So now that we live in the land of reboots I guess it’s time for The Grudge to get some new shoes.
It’s a solid but simple formula, it’s difficult to mess up, so I’m excited.
The movie opens and we’re at the same Japanese house. A real-estate lady steps in the house and bam! She’s cursed. It’s the middle of the day, a weird time of day to be scared, but hey I’ll give it a go. No one seems to be home so she heads back outside.
She feels a little strange and looks down to see a garbage bag moving as though there’s something trapped inside, cut to a wide shot and the grudge is standing right behind her super close peering over her shoulder, transition to a terrible TV series style title sequence. And it all happens really fast like the time you took to read this. No build up just rapid fire clichés. And I was just shocked how much I disliked this start, this isn’t grudge material!
We then, as though we changed theatre, move to a completely different tone. It’s now a True Detective style of movie. We’re back in the US, with disgruntled and worn out detectives. One who’s worked this ‘grudge’ case and one new to it. So after being rocked by the first scene I actually really got into this section. It’s was a natural fit to put these two products together the gritty well acted police drama with the dark horror monster tones.
So the makers of The Grudge are trying a few things. I’ve got over the start and I’m getting into this. It’s a nice setup now finish the job gimme some scary feels. The Grudge had three really solid jump scares, two of them nailed me, but they were of, what I like to call, the ‘bullying’ variety. The type where it’s a cut on motion and a brute slam on the whole keyboard. The bully ones are so loud you’re forced to flinch.
So they are fun in a theme park way but I don’t really respect them in horror movies. The original Grudge and its first US reboot may have used a bit of jump scare techniques but I remember the build ups were so well done, all of your defenses had been methodically removed by the time of the primary scare of the scene pounced on you. And then they would stretch out that moment for as long as they could. But this Grudge couldn’t pull that off.
It only took me a moment to figure out why the build ups to a scare scenes were so weak. They shot POV and other shots that give away way too much too soon. They reveal the scene from the grudge ghost’s perspective!? That’s such a basic rule being broken that it has big implications on your mental state. Entering the grudge’s home was always about sharing the experience with the person who cursed themselves by stepping inside. You’re stuck in there with them and it follows you home and it’s under the sheets.
So just as I was getting into it, it lets me down again. You can’t make a scary movie by showing the grudge watching the victim from the bath. I have seen horror movies using POV but the moments tend to come off as comedic. Like in Evil Dead when you’re screaming and knocking down small trees. Let me know if you can think of a scary use. I think maybe the best use of it in a movie was one where someone needed an organ transplant and got one from a from a convicted killer, and he had visions of the murders because of it. But it wasn’t.. scary.
I really wanted to congratulate them on being innovative but it just didn’t work. The Grudge‘s of the past had a formula, a very effective formula that made them some of the scariest movies you can see. It turns out that it’s a fragile blend where you’re stuck with the victim. You might notice a little more or even a little less but you’re as vulnerable as this movie is to my review.