This is our #NoSpoiler #MovieReview of the Grudge (2020) by Eugene Tay.
Grudge is a reboot and also a sequel of the Ju-On series, which was originally in Japanese, first released in 1998 on video. Ju-On is NOT the name of the ghost boy that we, at least amongst my friends in Singapore, commonly refer to him as. That pasty faced, throaty growl boy is called Tashio Saeki. Ju-On means Curse Grudge in Japanese.
Those watching this latest one might get confused with the constant jump in timeline and talking about seemingly unrelated incidences, it's because the movie is trying to stay true to the original style which does the same. So purist would like it, non-fans might find it unnecessary.
I feel that there is a legitimate reason for the non-linear timeline. It was revealed in Ju-On: The Grudge (2002) that time in the paranormal world does not function the same way it does in our reality. In Grudge (2020), there was a line spoken by a character that goes like this: "Places like this feels like the walls between this world and the next has been torn down. Time flows differently. Anyone who enters here, we are all bound together." This is a concept that many of us in the metaphysics field believe in and I think it's a deliberate move by the writer to portray the movie as such.
In the original, due to the lack of budget, the movie had very little sound effects, often times just relying on ambient sound, which Grudge (2020) emulated. So at times, it can feel a little art house, but know that it was intentional, once again, to try to pay tribute to the original.
On the internet, critics slammed the movie real bad. Many citing the lack of originality and overuse of jump scares as the main reason for this movie’s failure to scare. I don't agree with those points. I liked the familiarity of the horror tropes without trying too hard to be new and different. It stayed true to source material which, back in 1999, it was probably considered ground breaking. So how inventive can they get for a remake without pissing off at least one demographic of audience? Fortunately for me, I enjoyed it. So screw you, angry internet ranters!
For those of you who feel that a horror movie is boring because it’s predictable, I’m willing to bet that the scary but predictable scenes still got your heart pumping. Part of what makes horror, horror, is that you as the audience knows what’s coming and you mindfuck yourself in the process. And after the scare is done, you start talking smack about “how you saw that a mile away” probably to downplay your fears.
The biggest difference between Grudge (2020) and the Japanese version is that Asian horror are often subtle. Our ghosts are classic white-gowned-long-hair apparitions or a version of such. Grudge (2020) attempts to add a layer of scare with gore and zombie-eque ghosts. It's got Sam Raimi's Evil Dead vibe all over it. I reckon this sort of horror is more in line with the Hollywood audience it was intended for.
There was also a nice tribute to one of the two original Ju-On prequels titled 444444444. In Grudge (2020), the detective received a distress call at 4.44 am. 4 means death in Japanese and Chinese folklore. Usually Hollywood would use 12am or 3am as the witching hour. So this 4.44 timing for an American movie is definitely a nod towards the Asian source content it appropriated.
So how close to the truth is The Grudge based on?
Death based curses, according to asian mythology, are one of the strongest. When someone trades their life to place a curse, it can last through many generations and lifetimes.
In the case of tragic deaths through brutal murder, it is bound to leave behind an extremely strong imprint of negative energy. This is what causes a place to feel haunted and for sensitive folks to feel uncomfortable. That’s the part where the movie got right. In the movie, the spirits of the dead can come back as apparitions. This is also true. That’s your standard ghosts and vengeful spirits variant. Such entities are often times tied to the location of their death. They can’t follow you around. They can affect they way you feel when you are in the haunted house but not outside of it.
A house with such tragedy, if left un-cleansed can and will affect the new occupants, and cause a string of recurring unfortunate events. In the Ju-On movie franchise, the evil entity follows you around after you have come into contact with the house and cause you to commit murder elsewhere. This evil entity, I believe is no longer just the vengeful spirit of the dead. Houses with gruesome pasts have such strong negative energy that it attracts demonic entities to the location. These demons can take the form of the deceased and use that as a mask when interacting with the living. I believe this is what The Grudge really is. Demons don’t always kill their pray outright. They torment you mentally and lower your defences. Then it can either take over you or whisper thoughts into your mind making you commit the crime by your own will.
What’s scary about such haunting is that without intervention, this curse/demon can just keep going on and on for years. The less people believe in the paranormal and the more people rely on medical science to explain unnatural behaviour, the more likely these demonic entities can run rampant.
A recent case I attended to was about couple who were happily married for nine years. Within a year of moving into their new home, they began to feel a sense of aggression towards each other. A sense of pure hatred for each other. They filed for divorce and moved out. During their time apart from the house, they began to realise how different they had been behaving during their stay there. For this case, the haunting was only in the house itself and the thing did not follow them around.
Why this is one of the better horror franchise, in my opinion, is that unlike other haunted houses portrayed in American horror, a curse simply cannot be beaten by burning down the house or running away from the place. Once you are marked, death is probably the only way out.
Eugene Tay is a retired paranormal investigator and the author of the book Supernatural Confessions.