This year’s The Grudge was just in theaters this past January and now, barely two months later, it’s already out on Digital and Blu-ray this month, a “requel” that serves as both a reboot of the franchise and a sequel to the 2004 American remake starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, bringing a new set of ghosts to America to haunt a new house.
The new Grudge isn’t quite as memorable as the 2004 film, nor the 2002 Japanese original that started it all, but it does deliver a ton of fun nods to the previous films and even the comic books they inspired, along with a dreadfully foreboding atmosphere, and horror icon Lin Shaye (Insidious, Ouija) is thankfully there to give us some truly great moments.
It opens in Japan at the same cursed house from the original Ju-on, then immediately references the remake when we meet Fiona Landers (played by Tara Westwood), who is on the phone with Yoko, the first victim in 2004 that disappeared, leading to Gellar’s character to be sent to the house. In keeping with the established mythology of the franchise, anyone who steps into a cursed house where something horrible happened is then followed, tormented, and ultimately killed by the curse.
Fiona predictably takes the curse with her back to America, where it eventually drives her to murder her daughter and husband, and then herself, leaving a new “stain” of fury at 44 Reyburn Drive, as the residence is now “grudged”.
The film takes place simultaneously in 2004, 2005, and 2006, with single mom detective Muldoon (played by Andrea Riseborough) investigating the strange occurances at the cursed house. Demian Bichir’s veteran detective Goodman helps her out with his own story of the house, where he watched his former partner go insane after going inside one year prior.
William Sadler plays the crazy ex-partner Wilson, who figured out how the curse works, but of course no one believes him. He’s horrifyingly deformed due to a failed suicide attempt in which he shot a hole in his mouth. He’ll do worse to himself before the credits roll, in hopes of escaping the Landers ghosts that still haunt him.
John Cho and Betty Gilpin are great as a married couple of realtors trying to sell the house in question. Their subplot about their unborn son likely to be born with a life-threatening disease is all the more tragic after Cho’s Peter (another throwback to the 2004 film’s Peter played by Bill Pullman) enters the grudged home.
In fact, tragedy hangs heavily over all the characters, as Det. Muldoon’s husband died of cancer just six months prior, and Shaye’s character is falling into dementia as her faithful husband of 50 years, William (played by Frankie Faison), struggles to help ease her pain through an assisted suicide. These are all issues of true real-life horror, far more terrifying than the ghosts in the shadows, effectively grounding the film in a place of actual dread. Director Nicolas Pesce does a great job of mining this dread for all it’s worth, while the cinematography looks great and the immersive sound design draws viewers in.
And it’s Faison’s William who offers perhaps the most surprising view of the “curse” when he explains that he sees the Landers family ghosts and is in fact not scared of them, but rather finds hope in them for a confirmation of life after death, where he will presumably one day reunite with his wife. It’s certainly an interesting way to view his situation, but at his age and facing what he’s facing with his beloved wife, it’s understandable that he may see things a little differently that the other characters.
The Blu-ray includes three short behind the scenes featurettes, focusing on the stellar team of actors assembled in “The Cast of the Cursed”, and how they created the death scenes in “Designing Death”. In the featurette “Easter Egg Haunt”, Pesce explains many of the throwback references to the franchise that are placed throughout the film.
There are also almost 30 minutes of extended scenes that include a lot of deleted material, most notably the whole story of what happened to Fiona and her family upon her return from Japan, and Peter’s discovery of what’s left of them in the attic (another Easter egg). The much-promoted “alternative ending” is really just a remix of Shaye’s climactic moment, and it is nowhere near as satisfying (and disturbing) as the theatrical ending.
While the new Grudge looks and sounds better than the previous films, it’s the outstanding performances of the cast that really make it a worthy entry into the franchise.
*Paid link: As an Amazon Associate, we may earn a commission from qualifying purchases.
For more Halloween news, follow @HalloweenDaily.