J-horror had a huge impact on Western cinema in the late 90s, thanks to Ringu (1998), which led to a lot of American remakes. Takashi Shimizu remade his own film, Ju-On: The Grudge (2002), for an American audience in 2004 starring Sarah Michelle Gellar. There have been two sequels to this so far, but producer Sam Rami and director Nicolas Pesce decided to switch it up a little with The Grudge (2020)—a sidequel that takes places during and after the events of the 2004 film.

In 2004, live-in nurse Fiona Landers (Tara Westwood) leaves a house in Tokyo after being disturbed by the events that took place there. She encounters the ghost of Kayako Saeki before returning home to her husband, Sam (David Lawrence Brown), and their young daughter, Melinda (Zoe Fish), in Pennsylvania. However, Kayako’s curse possesses Fiona, causing her to bludgeon Sam and drown Melinda before stabbing herself in the throat.

In 2006, Detective Muldoon (Andrea Riseborough) moves to town with her son Burke (John J. Hansen) after her husband’s recent death. Muldoon and her new partner, Detective Wilson (Demián Bichir), are called to the woods where they find the corpse of a woman in a car. Goodman becomes uncomfortable when learning that the deceased woman had been visiting 44 Reyburn Drive—the house where Fiona murdered her family. Recalling the case, Goodman tells Muldoon that he refused to step foot in the house because it made him feel uneasy. His old partner, Detective Wilson (William Sadler), however, did enter the house and met an unfortunate fate after the curse caused drove him crazy.

Intrigued by the story, Muldoon visits the house in question alone and meets Faith Matheson (the remarkable Lin Shaye), who struggles with dementia, and uncovers the decomposing corpse of her husband William (Frankie Faison). Since she entered the house, Muldoon finds herself unable to shake the curse. The plot intertwines her life with the Landers, the Spencers and the Mathesons, who are all connected by 44 Reyburn Drive.

While the non-linear structure is a staple of the film franchise, it seems to be in lieu of an actual overarching plot. The families are quite interesting, especially John Cho and Betty Gilpin's Peter and Nina Landers, who completely pull you in with their captivating performances. But just as we start to become emotionally invested in their story, it switches to someone else—which means we don't get to form strong bonds with the characters. Muldoon herself is fundamentally boring and doesn’t have any character development. Just like with the other families, the film doesn’t allow us to build any empathy towards her because we’re too busy going back and forth between timelines—ones that she can’t even fully explore, making her profession underutilised.

Instead, the story is told to us quite passively as it explores each family who has the misfortune to interact with the curse—and we don’t even get the luxury of having this in chronological order. It has so much to cover that Muldoon’s son effectively disappears for the majority of the film and you wonder if you imagined his existence until he returns later. The filmmaking is competent from a technical standpoint, but it doesn’t do anything to counter the poor script and characterisation. Everything is devoid of life, but the watered-down colour palette at least captures the coldness of it all.

There are genuine scares in The Grudge, though they’re of the expected jump kind, but the ghosts don’t seem as scary as they did in Ju-On. Sure, they’re eerie thanks to sound cues and atmosphere, but they actually look terrible, especially for 2020. It always feels like there’s something missing concerning the film's antagonist—aka the curse. Perhaps there are just no good stories left to tell within The Grudge universe, but that’s not something I want to believe.

Its concept is such a fascinating and frightening part of Japanese folklore that to not explore the trauma and pain that create new or continue old curses seems like a huge misfire. To me, that’s what makes these films scary. That’s the thing that leaves an impact on its audience. When the film reaches its big climax with Muldoon, it feels both underwhelming and underdeveloped as we don’t have any attachment to her character. This is a shame because the ending is actually really great and it would’ve hit harder had the film spend time developing… well, anything really.

Ultimately, The Grudge lacks emotion. It feels like an empty shell of the films that came before it. Somehow it’s even worse than the 2004 remake. There are definitely some good ideas in it, but they’re drowned out by the overall blandness of the script. If anything, it has some fantastic nods to the previous films as it recreates some of the original scares. These definitely stand out as a positive. This isn’t anything special, but there’s no denying that, no matter how bad these films look or are, we’re still drawn to them and we always will be. It's hard to deny them as a staple in horror culture, even if they're bad.


The Grudge (2020) Review

February 18, 2020

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J-horror had a huge impact on Western cinema in the late 90s, thanks to Ringu (1998), which led to a lot of American remakes. Takashi Shimizu remade his own film, Ju-On: The Grudge (2002), for an American audience in 2004 starring Sarah Michelle Gellar. There have been two sequels to this so far, but producer Sam Rami and director Nicolas Pesce decided to switch it up a little with The Grudge (2020)—a sidequel that takes places during and after the events of the 2004 film.

In 2004, live-in nurse Fiona Landers (Tara Westwood) leaves a house in Tokyo after being disturbed by the events that took place there. She encounters the ghost of Kayako Saeki before returning home to her husband, Sam (David Lawrence Brown), and their young daughter, Melinda (Zoe Fish), in Pennsylvania. However, Kayako’s curse possesses Fiona, causing her to bludgeon Sam and drown Melinda before stabbing herself in the throat.

In 2006, Detective Muldoon (Andrea Riseborough) moves to town with her son Burke (John J. Hansen) after her husband’s recent death. Muldoon and her new partner, Detective Wilson (Demián Bichir), are called to the woods where they find the corpse of a woman in a car. Goodman becomes uncomfortable when learning that the deceased woman had been visiting 44 Reyburn Drive—the house where Fiona murdered her family. Recalling the case, Goodman tells Muldoon that he refused to step foot in the house because it made him feel uneasy. His old partner, Detective Wilson (William Sadler), however, did enter the house and met an unfortunate fate after the curse caused drove him crazy.

Intrigued by the story, Muldoon visits the house in question alone and meets Faith Matheson (the remarkable Lin Shaye), who struggles with dementia, and uncovers the decomposing corpse of her husband William (Frankie Faison). Since she entered the house, Muldoon finds herself unable to shake the curse. The plot intertwines her life with the Landers, the Spencers and the Mathesons, who are all connected by 44 Reyburn Drive.

While the non-linear structure is a staple of the film franchise, it seems to be in lieu of an actual overarching plot. The families are quite interesting, especially John Cho and Betty Gilpin's Peter and Nina Landers, who completely pull you in with their captivating performances. But just as we start to become emotionally invested in their story, it switches to someone else—which means we don't get to form strong bonds with the characters. Muldoon herself is fundamentally boring and doesn’t have any character development. Just like with the other families, the film doesn’t allow us to build any empathy towards her because we’re too busy going back and forth between timelines—ones that she can’t even fully explore, making her profession underutilised.

Instead, the story is told to us quite passively as it explores each family who has the misfortune to interact with the curse—and we don’t even get the luxury of having this in chronological order. It has so much to cover that Muldoon’s son effectively disappears for the majority of the film and you wonder if you imagined his existence until he returns later. The filmmaking is competent from a technical standpoint, but it doesn’t do anything to counter the poor script and characterisation. Everything is devoid of life, but the watered-down colour palette at least captures the coldness of it all.

There are genuine scares in The Grudge, though they’re of the expected jump kind, but the ghosts don’t seem as scary as they did in Ju-On. Sure, they’re eerie thanks to sound cues and atmosphere, but they actually look terrible, especially for 2020. It always feels like there’s something missing concerning the film's antagonist—aka the curse. Perhaps there are just no good stories left to tell within The Grudge universe, but that’s not something I want to believe.

Its concept is such a fascinating and frightening part of Japanese folklore that to not explore the trauma and pain that create new or continue old curses seems like a huge misfire. To me, that’s what makes these films scary. That’s the thing that leaves an impact on its audience. When the film reaches its big climax with Muldoon, it feels both underwhelming and underdeveloped as we don’t have any attachment to her character. This is a shame because the ending is actually really great and it would’ve hit harder had the film spend time developing… well, anything really.

Ultimately, The Grudge lacks emotion. It feels like an empty shell of the films that came before it. Somehow it’s even worse than the 2004 remake. There are definitely some good ideas in it, but they’re drowned out by the overall blandness of the script. If anything, it has some fantastic nods to the previous films as it recreates some of the original scares. These definitely stand out as a positive. This isn’t anything special, but there’s no denying that, no matter how bad these films look or are, we’re still drawn to them and we always will be. It's hard to deny them as a staple in horror culture, even if they're bad.


This was written on June 15th 2016, 3 days after the Pulse Orlando nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida. I just uncovered it and feel it is still important to share. I talk about how I became comfortable with my sexuality.


Piper (Taylor Schilling) and Alex (Laura Prepon) in Orange Is the New Black
As shooting investigators walked into gay nightclub Pulse Orlando on June 12th, 2016 after the homophobic terrorist attack performed by Omar Manteen, they had to tune out the eerie sound of ringing mobile phones coming from the bodies scattered across the gay nightclub where they fell shot dead; loved ones were still trying to contact them. Hearing news of the massacre, now known as the largest terrorist shooting and biggest terrorist attack since 9/11 in 21st century America, cannot have been easy for anyone. But who does it strike the most? Who is left feeling the most frightened, upset and maybe even ashamed of themselves? We are: the LGBT community.

I remember questioning my sexuality in my mid-teens. Back then it made me fearful. I was terrified of admitting it to anymore; most of all myself. What made the situation worse was I did not fully understand if I was romantically and sexually attracted to solely women, or men as well. Was I a lesbian or was I bisexual? I hated both terms, mostly because all I’d heard was the negative connotations attached to these words. The thought made my heart race and made me want to hide. It struck me with a powerful feeling of panic. I was scared of being judged by other people and by myself. I was scared of not knowing what I was feeling.

Looking back I see that I have always identified more with women on screen in television shows and movies. They were - and still are - the object of my gaze much more than any man could ever be. I do, however, remember my first celebrity male crush: Zack Morris (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) from Saved by the Bell. It took a while for puberty to hit me and I was never as interested in boys as my friends at school were, so it was confusing for me. During my compulsory school years, I didn’t develop many crushes and when I did I was never sure of them anyway and none of them were on girls.

These days I am lucky to have finally realised that yes I am attracted romantically and sexually to both men and women. Although I would just prefer to say “I like men and women” and avoid any terms, I actually am bisexual and am okay with identifying as this. I am an open book and I never went around telling people I’m bisexual because I don’t feel that is necessary for me. I am just me and people can find out however they like because it’s not part of my introduction because that would be unnecessary. My close friends and family know my sexuality and the new people I meet will eventually learn my sexuality. I don’t care about anyone else. I have never been so comfortable and proud of my sexuality until now. But how did this massive change happen?

The answer is simple: it was the normalisation and representation in film, television and more open discussion and support in real life that has gotten me to where I am today. It has allowed me to become more accepting, to see real life people and actors portray people who aren’t hetereosexual. There are characters who are fluid in not only their sexuality, but their gender. It is comforting to me to see a variety of women - both characters and real life - from different backgrounds who are beautiful, ugly, sad, happy, thin, fat, trans, privileged or oppressed speak out and identify as what they wanted to with absolute pride and power. Because of this, I ultimately do not care what other people think anymore because I am proud of these people who identify on the LGBT+ spectrum like I do and I am happy with the representation that we give ourselves.

The safe spaces, gay nightclubs for example, and the witty, dramatic and hilarious television shows like Orange Is the New Black along the people I knew really helped me. I am so thankful that we finally have television shows depicting gay people in a positive light. I would’ve killed for something like this as a teenager, and I can really see that show, and others, really helping people come to terms with their sexuality. Having a positive on screen representation that you can identity with is really important, as film and television play a big part in our society and our escapism.

Reading about what happened in Orlando in a place for LGBT+ people to feel safe, be themselves and have fun makes me feel immensely upset and angry. I also cannot help but think: what if this had happened here, in England, to me or to people I know who were just trying to be free and feel comfortable in what they thought was a safe space just for them? It could happen to me and you. As members of the LGBT+ community, we are proud to have come a long way for our rights and protection. However, we know that some people out there are still disgusted by us, don’t think we are real and even wish us dead, but we never expect these atrocities to happen in one of our safe spaces. Undoubtedly, I am more scared than I was previously as I was never scared of a terrorist attack aimed directly at me for my sexuality until now. But I am still proud to be a member of the LGBT+ community.

It’s incredibly saddening that the largest, deadliest, terrorist shooting in the United States and largest terrorist attack in the United States since 9/11 was targeted at LGBT+ people. I will never forget this and neither should you. Watch out for those close to you who are saying nothing about Orlando. They are probably the same people who were all praying for Paris, France when the November 2015 attacks happened, which is the largest terrorist attack to have happened in France not only in the 21st century but ever. Yet, when the largest shooting terrorist attack since 9/11 intentionally targeted LGBT+ people they remain silent. But listen to me, we in the LGBT community will never be silenced.

Notes On Sexuality and Feeling Safe

January 25, 2017

,
This was written on June 15th 2016, 3 days after the Pulse Orlando nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida. I just uncovered it and feel it is still important to share. I talk about how I became comfortable with my sexuality.


Piper (Taylor Schilling) and Alex (Laura Prepon) in Orange Is the New Black
As shooting investigators walked into gay nightclub Pulse Orlando on June 12th, 2016 after the homophobic terrorist attack performed by Omar Manteen, they had to tune out the eerie sound of ringing mobile phones coming from the bodies scattered across the gay nightclub where they fell shot dead; loved ones were still trying to contact them. Hearing news of the massacre, now known as the largest terrorist shooting and biggest terrorist attack since 9/11 in 21st century America, cannot have been easy for anyone. But who does it strike the most? Who is left feeling the most frightened, upset and maybe even ashamed of themselves? We are: the LGBT community.

I remember questioning my sexuality in my mid-teens. Back then it made me fearful. I was terrified of admitting it to anymore; most of all myself. What made the situation worse was I did not fully understand if I was romantically and sexually attracted to solely women, or men as well. Was I a lesbian or was I bisexual? I hated both terms, mostly because all I’d heard was the negative connotations attached to these words. The thought made my heart race and made me want to hide. It struck me with a powerful feeling of panic. I was scared of being judged by other people and by myself. I was scared of not knowing what I was feeling.

Looking back I see that I have always identified more with women on screen in television shows and movies. They were - and still are - the object of my gaze much more than any man could ever be. I do, however, remember my first celebrity male crush: Zack Morris (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) from Saved by the Bell. It took a while for puberty to hit me and I was never as interested in boys as my friends at school were, so it was confusing for me. During my compulsory school years, I didn’t develop many crushes and when I did I was never sure of them anyway and none of them were on girls.

These days I am lucky to have finally realised that yes I am attracted romantically and sexually to both men and women. Although I would just prefer to say “I like men and women” and avoid any terms, I actually am bisexual and am okay with identifying as this. I am an open book and I never went around telling people I’m bisexual because I don’t feel that is necessary for me. I am just me and people can find out however they like because it’s not part of my introduction because that would be unnecessary. My close friends and family know my sexuality and the new people I meet will eventually learn my sexuality. I don’t care about anyone else. I have never been so comfortable and proud of my sexuality until now. But how did this massive change happen?

The answer is simple: it was the normalisation and representation in film, television and more open discussion and support in real life that has gotten me to where I am today. It has allowed me to become more accepting, to see real life people and actors portray people who aren’t hetereosexual. There are characters who are fluid in not only their sexuality, but their gender. It is comforting to me to see a variety of women - both characters and real life - from different backgrounds who are beautiful, ugly, sad, happy, thin, fat, trans, privileged or oppressed speak out and identify as what they wanted to with absolute pride and power. Because of this, I ultimately do not care what other people think anymore because I am proud of these people who identify on the LGBT+ spectrum like I do and I am happy with the representation that we give ourselves.

The safe spaces, gay nightclubs for example, and the witty, dramatic and hilarious television shows like Orange Is the New Black along the people I knew really helped me. I am so thankful that we finally have television shows depicting gay people in a positive light. I would’ve killed for something like this as a teenager, and I can really see that show, and others, really helping people come to terms with their sexuality. Having a positive on screen representation that you can identity with is really important, as film and television play a big part in our society and our escapism.

Reading about what happened in Orlando in a place for LGBT+ people to feel safe, be themselves and have fun makes me feel immensely upset and angry. I also cannot help but think: what if this had happened here, in England, to me or to people I know who were just trying to be free and feel comfortable in what they thought was a safe space just for them? It could happen to me and you. As members of the LGBT+ community, we are proud to have come a long way for our rights and protection. However, we know that some people out there are still disgusted by us, don’t think we are real and even wish us dead, but we never expect these atrocities to happen in one of our safe spaces. Undoubtedly, I am more scared than I was previously as I was never scared of a terrorist attack aimed directly at me for my sexuality until now. But I am still proud to be a member of the LGBT+ community.

It’s incredibly saddening that the largest, deadliest, terrorist shooting in the United States and largest terrorist attack in the United States since 9/11 was targeted at LGBT+ people. I will never forget this and neither should you. Watch out for those close to you who are saying nothing about Orlando. They are probably the same people who were all praying for Paris, France when the November 2015 attacks happened, which is the largest terrorist attack to have happened in France not only in the 21st century but ever. Yet, when the largest shooting terrorist attack since 9/11 intentionally targeted LGBT+ people they remain silent. But listen to me, we in the LGBT community will never be silenced.
House of Psychotic Women