(US - 2020)
Written and directed by Nicolas Pesce. Cast: Andrea Riseborough, Demian Bichir, John Cho, Jacki Weaver, Lin Shaye, Betty Gilpin, Frankie Faison, William Sadler, Tara Westwood, Dave Brown, John Hansen, Zoe Fish, Junko Bailey. (R, 94 mins)
Going back over the last decade and change in the grand tradition of the US remake of ONE MISSED CALL, THE DEVIL INSIDE, DEVIL'S DUE, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: THE MARKED ONES, THE FOREST, and THE BYE BYE MAN, THE GRUDGE continues Hollywood's seemingly annual ritual of kicking off the new year by bilking genre fans out of some multiplex gift cards with a horror movie that's forgettable at best and a contemptible piece of shit at worst. A reboot of the US franchise that was itself based on a Japanese franchise (got that?), THE GRUDGE 2020's biggest problem is its utter pointlessness. It's a step up to the major studio big leagues for writer/director Nicolas Pesce, who established some indie horror cred with 2016's THE EYES OF MY MOTHER and 2019's PIERCING. I'm not saying Pesce is an auteur, and I haven't seen PIERCING, but THE EYES OF MY MOTHER, while flawed, had some genuinely unsettling elements that showed Pesce was a promising new talent in the horror genre. But the kind of style and potential that got him the GRUDGE job in the first place is rendered moot when it's all just loud and predictable jolts and a tired story that could've been directed by anyone. GRUDGE 2020 is the kind of bland, by-the-numbers, one-note jump-scare machine that doesn't really even require a talented filmmaker as much as it needs a competent manager, someone handed a checklist and able to work through it without rocking the boat and making sure that all the same shit you've seen in dozens of other horror movies over the last several years is dutifully repeated--and instantly forgotten--yet again.
Kayako for Food" phase of her career) also attaches itself to Fiona, following her to her home in the fictional Pennsylvania suburb of Cross River, where she's ultimately driven to murder her husband Sam (Dave Brown) and young daughter Melinda (Zoe Fish). Cut to 2006, as recently-widowed Detective Muldoon (MANDY's Andrea Riseborough, looking ready to crush her audition for the lead in THE CARRIE SNODGRESS STORY) has just transferred to quiet Cross River with her young son Burke (John Hanson), hoping for a change of scenery after losing her husband to cancer three months earlier. She's paired with weary, chain-smoking Detective Goodman (Demian Bichir) and they immediately catch a case where the charred remains of a woman are found in a car in an isolated stretch of woods on the outskirts of town. The dead woman is Lorna Moody (Jacki Weaver), an assisted suicide counselor who had been staying at 44 Rayburn Dr., the home of the Mathesons--William (Frankie Faison) and Faith (Lin Shaye, whose presence in these post-Blumhouse-era horror movies appears to be required by law)--to evaluate the terminally ill Faith's decision to end her life. Goodman wants nothing more to do with the case after hearing the address, so Muldoon goes there alone and finds a delirious Faith with her fingers hacked off and the rotting corpse of William sitting in the living room chair.
jump scare was recreated in THE PRODIGY by director Nicholas McCarthy and is trotted out again here, to much lesser effect thanks to Pesce's bungled staging of it.