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the grudge

DIRECTOR: Nicolas Pesce (piercing, the eyes of my mother)
STARRING: andrea riseborough, john cho, lin shaye and betty gilpin


REVIEWER: nick tonkin

A house is cursed by a vengeful ghost that dooms those who enter it with a violent death.

The Grudge is the new addition to the American horror series, taking place both after and alongside the events of the first film and its sequels. Sporting a strong cast list including Andrea Riseborough, John Cho and Betty Gipin, The Grudge manages to combine strong work from talented people into something less than the sum of its parts resulting in a film that is ultimately quite dull.


The film is centred on Riseborough’s character, Detective Muldoon, who has relocated to a small town in Pennsylvania with her son Burke after the loss of her husband to cancer. Looking for a distraction from the difficulties of life she and Burke are facing following their loss, Detective Muldoon dives into a cold case trail following the discovery of an old car wreck in an isolated section of forest with a corpse inside showing signs of hideous and peculiar injuries. Some clues and investigation later lead Muldoon to the house at 44 Reyburn Drive, the scene of the gruesome and tragic murders of a young family.


The Grudge, like the original films, is told in non-chronological order. Here it intersperses parts of the stories of the residents of 44 Reyburn drive prior to their grisly ends between Muldoon’s investigations into the property and the events that occurred there. However, at times the frequency of the jumps between the timelines and how subtly the connections between the scenes are illustrated can lead to the feeling of incoherence. 


This, combined with the score, which by itself is a solid body of work by The Newton Brothers (notable for their work with Mike Flanagan), is part of the reason that the film undermines effectively any notion of suspense or unsettling atmosphere that it may otherwise generate. The film insists on emphasising introspection and a meditative/languid pace between scenes of suspense and jump scares, eviscerating tension. The score matches this by providing something that would be more at home in a TV drama. Worse though, is the industrial style influence that pervades the score in scare scenes, distracting the viewer from the scares rather than emphasising them. 


In addition to these detractions is the aesthetic of the film, the way it has been shot. It is something that would suit a season of True Detective - with its pastel colour palette and love of slow zoom push-ins and outs and wide lingering setting shots. This all combines to make The Grudge something lovely to look at, but as with the pacing, score and the editing, it detracts from the aim of scaring the audience and building tension. 


The Grudge has been made by talented people, the evidence is apparent on the screen. Strangely enough, the proof isn’t in the pudding as the end result is a languid, strange and rather dull experience. 

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