Don’t go in the house
Latest Grudge is depressing and disappointing
The Grudge is the fourth installment of an American horror series born out of the Japanese film Ju-on: The Curse, which was released back in 2000. This one is sort of a “sidequel” that takes place during and after the first three. Produced by Sam Raimi, directed by Nicolas Pesce (responsible for the impressive The Eyes of My Mother in 2016) and touting a terrific cast of actors you will recognize, the movie disappoints big time.
The basic concept is that a curse arises when someone dies in the grip of a terrible rage and anyone who encounters this curse by, say, entering a house where a murder happened, will then catch the curse like a virus and wreak the same atrocities onto their own loved ones and so on and so on. Those affected will be haunted by visions of a little girl with wet hair, sewage-grade water bubbling up from dirty bathtubs, their covers being pulled off in the night—basically whatever generic scrap of nightmare can be conjured up.
But aren’t people murdered in a fit of rage every day? Which one gets the curse? You’d think the world would be filled with people being followed around by this weird little girl.
Cut to the characters: Actress Andrea Riseborough plays rookie detective Muldoon, and she carries the film as a recently widowed mother raising her son alone. Her new partner (played by the great Demián Bichir) is familiar with the consequences of this curse and wants nothing to do with it. But after finding a body in a burned-up car, Muldoon must enter the house haunted by the curse and then spend the rest of the movie trying to figure out what the heck is going on. The film jumps through time and space, following a younger couple (John Cho and Betty Gilpin) expecting a baby who likely will be born with a terminal disease; an older couple considering assisted suicide because the wife has dementia or something; and a lady who leaves a creepy house in Tokyo only to bring the curse back to the States and start this whole thing.
Everyone is miserable in this movie and on the brink of mental breakdown, the setting is perpetually dark, the murky sky dumps rain in sheets, and everything from a public bathroom to a grocery store to the local psychiatric hospital is the worst version of itself—soiled, unkempt and understaffed. These dramatic moves aren’t scary; they are depressing. The time leaps and multiple storylines are confusing, and the horror relies upon jump scares we have all seen before.
These poor actors give their Herculean best, but even they can’t inject life into this long and boring movie. In the end, the scariest takeaway is that our lives will indeed be filled with bad news, loneliness and loss, and that good mental health isn’t guaranteed.