Written and Directed by Nicolas Pesce
Starring Andrea Riseborough, Demián Bichir, John Cho, Betty Gilpin, Lin Shaye, Jacki Weaver, William Sadler, Frankie Faison, Tara Westwood, David Lawrence Brown, Zoe Fish, Junko Bailey
In this new, now fourth installment of the American version, we get the vision of a completely different person, Fiona Landers (Westwood). In 2004, she leaves the original home and takes the curse of Kayako Saeki (Bailey) with her to Pennsylvania. The events that follow are predictable to any who’ve seen the other films and to most who haven’t.
Fortunately, the choice of Pesce allows the story to take on a non-linear track that helps to add interest that would otherwise be hard to find, despite the stellar cast.
Top of the cast is young, widowed mother, Detective Muldoon. Now 2006, she and her son have moved into the same Pennsylvania town for a fresh start. Unfortunately for her, this freshness is disturbed by an increasingly stale smell of the curse. She and her partner, Goodman (Bichir) are brought to the scene of a car wreck that has been sitting alone in the woods for months.
Soon we discover that the car came from the very house that Landers had returned to in 2004, which is known for many murders. Goodman refuses to investigate further. Muldoon cannot resist.
From here, the story jumps around in time. We discover other things about the house, other occupants, real estate agents and such. Each of these have torment visited upon them in some way.
Pesce gets credit for giving at least a different approach to the material. If anything, he gets the most out of the incredible cast. There are no bad performances in the film. It’s hard to believe the range expressed by Jacki Weaver, in particular. It’s great to see Frankie Faison being utilized so effectively.
The difference between this and most standard re-imaginings is the vision Pesce has is one of life consumed with trial and agony before the introduction of the curse. Each group of people are living through challenges and The Grudge heaped upon them just compounds everything. There are no extraordinary people among the cast of characters. There are also no characters so annoying they demand to be executed. It’s a receptacle of misery that is just unfair.
There are some nice touches with Riseborough’s character. She does a good job of avoiding the usual trappings of a heroine. What is remarkable is that they have her character act with the instincts of an officer. She is not a superhero; she’s well trained.
Pesce’s skill with camerawork provides a few, but not many, surprises. He’s really rehashing with more skill perhaps than the original material deserves at this point. Given that the film sits between sequels, there really is no new ground to gain, since the curse moves on in other films.
A well acted, decently filmed, but unneeded sequel. That’s the best definition of a side-quel I can muster.
(***1/2 out of *****)