‘The Grudge’ Review

Director: Nicolas Pesce

Writer: Nicolas Pesce

Cast: Andrea Riseborough, Demian Bichir, John Cho, Betty Gilpin, John J. Hansen, Frankie Faison, William Sadler, Lin Shaye and Jackie Weaver

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

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

The second remake of the Japanese horror film Ju-on: The Grudge from 2002 – the first American remake came out in 2004 – this new Grudge movie comes from writer/director Nicolas Pesce, known for The Eyes of My Mother, and brings the action to America instead of keeping it in Japan. Pesce had come out before the release of the movie saying his version of the story would be “fucked up.” So, some self-professed hype is already at play here. That said, I will admit that when I found out about Pesce directing the remake, and having seen The Eyes of My Mother, I thought he’s a pretty descent choice. However, now having seen The Grudge I will say this; I was wrong.

The Grudge tells four different stories – taking place in different years – that are all connected to one home, where every person that steps in it is met with a violent and deadly outcome. Like I mentioned, the action is moved to America, and mostly follows the story of Detective Muldoon (Andrea Riseborough), who has moved to a new town with her son, Burke (John J. Hansen), after the death of her husband. She’s assigned to her new partner, Goodman (Demian Bichir), and immediately finds a body in the forest that belonged to the long missing Lorna Moody (Jacki Weaver). The case makes Goodman uneasy, and that makes Muldoon curious about the case.

The connected stories belong to Peter and Nina Spencer (John Cho and Betty Gilpin), real-estate agents who are dealing with pregnancy problems, and are trying to sell the, unbeknownst to them, cursed house. There is also Faith and William Matheson (Lin Shaye and Frankie Faison), who are other occupants of the house, when William asks for help from Lorna Moody. Then there is a short story between Goodman and his old partner Wilson (William Sadler), and finally the, short, story of what kick starts everything of Fiona Landers (Tara Westwood) who worked in Japan – in the original cursed house – and brought the curse back with her.

While the non-linear narrative is nothing new for this brand, this Grudge makes things too muddy for its own good. While it doesn’t bounce around too much, the stories are a bit blah. It also doesn’t help that we know The Matheson’s, Sanders’ and Moody are dead so the tension of seeing their story play out is dampened a bit, but even when they’re playing out they really don’t do much to suck you in.

The only real story that draws you in is that of John Cho and Betty Gilpin, mainly because of how serious they play it. I’d argue that they should have been the focus and then have Riseborough and Bichir’s characters play into their story. The real shame here is the waste of the cast, even though everyone looks like they are trying to the best with what they have, the majority of the characters are underwritten or just not given anything to really do. This is true for Bichir’s Goodman, who doesn’t really do anything other than tell Muldoon to let the case go, and he always thought there was something wrong with the house.

Then comes the scares, probably the main reason everyone will try to watch this. On that front, The Grudge disappoints as well. The scares are pretty basic and nothing we haven’t seen before. Even the classic imaginary that we are familiar with – the hand in the hair, bathtub filled with dirty water – isn’t worthwhile. There are nice references to the past films, but it’s there to mainly show that Pesce was a fan of the series before he got the job. Which is a shame because I do think that Pesce has a good eye for imagery, but it’s almost like Pesce was afraid of letting the movie loose, and being “fucked up” like he promised.

All in all, The Grudge is less superior to its 2004 remake, and is way too messy for its own good. The characters are underdeveloped or underwritten, and it lacks the punch the movie tries to promise. Plus, it is a tad boring at times, which is something you don’t want from horror movie. If I had to pick something that I liked about it, it would probably be some of the score from The Newton Brothers.

The Grudge

Rating: Pass

 

Mini-Reviews: The Darkness, The Eyes of My Mother & Christine

Hey everybody!

Welcome to the fourth edition of Mini-Reviews. This time, it’s a Chicago International Film Festival Edition! The Chicago International Film Festival is going on right now, and I’ve had the pleasure of watching three films already, so I figured I’d pass along my mini-reviews for these films.

 

*As always, these will be spoiler free reviews*

 

The Darkness

Director: Daniel Castro Zimbron

Writers: Daniel Castro Zimbron, Denis Languerand, David Pablos

Cast: Brontis Jodorowsky, Aliocha Sotnikoff, Camila Robertson Glennie, Fernando Alvarez Rebeil, Meraqui Pradis, and Alejandro Villeli

Synopsis: A family tries to survive a mysterious beast outside their cabin home. However, the youngest son doesn’t think the beast is their only problem.

 

The synopsis probably won’t do much for many, but there is a lot more to The Darkness, original title Las Tinieblas, The film is most set within the cabin that belongs to the central characters in the film in father Gustavo (Jodorowsky), oldest son Marcos (Alvarez Rebeil), youngest son Argel (Sotnikoff) and even younger daughter Luciana (Robertson Glennie). The film opens giving us the sense of the world. Gustavo is keeping his children safe from the mysterious The Beast outside in the forest which brings a fog with it. One day, Gustavo and Marcos go out into the woods, but only Gustavo comes back saying The Beast took him. Argel can’t let it go and wants to go looking for his brother, but his father forbids from going out in the woods by himself.

The film works on some levels, mostly the eeriness and the tone. The idea of these characters trying to survive whatever it outside the house adds a lot of tension, and when the Beast roams outside the house, it really is terrifying. Especially since the family boards up the windows so the Beast doesn’t see them in the house, and the screen is only filled with either pure darkness or a lantern.

The film does move a little slow, and it gets caught up in its own mysterious for a while, but what keeps the film going in Argel actor Aliocha Sotnikoff, who according to director Daniel Castro Zimbron during a Q&A after the film, this is his first film, along with Camila Robertson Glennie, who plays Luciana, which amazed all of us in the theater because they were very good, and you would think they’ve been doing so for a while.

All in all, The Darkness will not be for everyone. The film does move rather slow at times, and while it takes a while to figure out what the theme is, The Darkness is a nice art film with some great visuals.

The Darkness

3 out of 5

mv5botcwoduxytgtmgqxyi00y2nilwe1ntetzgixytq1zwqznzjhxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvynjkyoda1mdc-_v1_

 

The Eyes of My Mother

Director: Nicolas Pesce

Writers: Nicolas Pesce

Cast: Kika Magalhaes, Diana Agostini, Paul Nazak, Will Brill, Clara Wong, Flora Diaz, and Joey Curtis-Green

Synopsis: A young, lonely woman is consumed by her deepest and darkest desires after tragedy strikes her quiet country life.

 

The Eyes of My Mother isn’t that long of a film, but it sure makes a statement in its runtime. The film is also shot in black-and-white which makes it a little more eerie and a tad more disturbing when the horror shots come into play. Not only that, it leads to some amazing shots that are truly eye-popping.

The Eyes of My Mother follows Francisca (Magalhaes), who witnessed her mother being brutally murdered in their home by a stranger (Brill) at a young age. The event left a mark on her as she grows up – in the same house no less – and what follows a dark trip into her life.

The film is potentially one of those films that I would say, the less you know the better your experience will probably be. Although I will say the film will not be for everyone. It’s not even that the film is too gory or even has too many jump scares (the film actually doesn’t have jump scares), it’s just that the film acts a lot like an art film at times, and doesn’t rely on musical cues or anything like that. The film is actually broken into three parts that spans years and each tell their own little different story that makes the film – at times – move smoothly.

The Eyes of My Mother rests on the shoulders of Kika Magalhaes, who does a fantastic job of keeping you invested, even though her actions aren’t the best, but also has a look to her that doesn’t make you scared of her, it also makes you feel sorry for her in some regard. Diana Agostini, who plays her mother, only has a limited amount of screen time at the beginning of the film, but her performance is felt throughout the film thanks to Kika.

All in all, The Eyes of My Mother is filled with great shots by cinematographer Zach Kuperstein, and director Nicolas Pesce does a great job with his star Kika Magalhaes to bring all of us down a deep dark and twisted path of what I’ve seen, and somewhat agree, a horror fable.

The Eyes of My Mother

3.5 out of 5

eyes_of_my_mother

 

Christine

Director: Antonio Campos

Writer: Craig Shilowich

Cast: Rebecca Hall, Michael C. Hall, Tracy Letts, Maria Dizzia, J. Smith-Cameron, Timothy Simons, Kim Shaw, and John Cullum

Synopsis: The story of 1970s TV reporter Christine Chubbuck.

 

This is one will be hard to talk about, spoiler wise, considering this is a real event that happen. So if you don’t want to know anything about the film and Christine Chubbuck’s life, then don’t read this review. However, I’ll say that the film is great and has amazing performances by the cast.

Christine follows Christine Chubbuck (Hall), who works at a low-rating news station in Sarasota, Florida during the 70s. Christine wants to prove herself that she can do more than what she is doing now – although she does like what’s she’s doing – but her boss and station manager Michael (Letts) wants to push the “if it bleeds it leads” campaign. Christine doesn’t like the idea, but can’t really do anything about it. However, Christine has more personal issues going on. She has a crush on her co-worker and lead anchor George (C. Hall), health problems that her mother (Smith-Cameron) keeps bringing up, and not being able to really connect with her co-workers like Jean (Dizzia) and Steve (Simons). All of it builds up to the fateful day of July 15th, when Christine decides to commit suicide with a handgun, live on the air.

Christine is only a version of the real-life story of Christine Chubbuck, but it’s one that is very good, and is held together by the great cast. However, the film belongs to Rebecca Hall, who handles the situation fairly well. She doesn’t play Christine as just a woman with mental issues, and that’s it. We see her crack jokes and have a fun sense of humor, but she does break down with everything going on around her. In the more deeper dramatic senses, it reminded me how much I love Rebecca Hall, because she absolutely nails those scenes. You do feel for Christine, especially one scene in particular near the end of the – not the shooting herself scene by the way.

When it comes to the depression angle of the film, it’s not a movie that will give you the definitive answer of depression. This is one case, and we only get a certain block of the story. We know there is a previous event that we don’t see, so you get the idea that Christine isn’t well before the final act of the film. The film also slows down a for a bit before the final act which takes a lot of steam the film had, but not enough to takes away everything good it setup.

All in all, Christine isn’t all the way perfect, and while the cast is great, Rebecca Hall is the reason this film is a must-see. Christine Chubbuck’s story is one that should be told, and while Christine isn’t the definite story for her, it is a good one that should go on your radar.

Christine

4.5 out of 5

christine