It sounds strange but it’s true – the new version of The Grudge, which is [rather thankfully] neither a sequel nor a remake, will, as director Nicolas Pesce said when interviewed by ‘Bloody Disgusting’:
“Take place at the exact same time that the Sarah Michelle Gellar Grudge takes place. So Sarah Michelle Gellar is doing her thing in Japan, and this is what’s happening in America at that same time. So for people who know the old movies, American and Japanese, super well, they’ll see fun ways that we’ve connected it into the mythology and into the story and storylines that existed, while still making a totally separate story that, for all the people who haven’t seen the Grudge movies, this will still make sense to them”.
He went on to talk more about his film which I’m liking the sound of more and more.
“It does not take place in Japan, but rather in a small town in suburban America. Aesthetically, it’s a lot closer to the original Japanese films than the American ones, which made it a bit slicker. Is it in a Japanese house? No, but we tried to keep all of the same techniques and ways that they shot the house, and keeping it claustrophobic. So stylistically we tried to pull from what those old Japanese films were doing, but obviously setting it in different locations. I think the biggest difference in changing the location is, you know, Japan has certain folklore touchstones that mean a lot in Japan that don’t translate the same way in America. For instance, the Japanese ghosts in the original films are inspired by kabuki makeup, and cats have a very different context in Japan than they do in America. So what we tried to do was, you’re going to see a lot of odes to what they had done, but trying to bring it into an American folklore context. Not stray too far from what the old Grudge films had done but just sort of recontextualise it into a more American mindset when it comes to folklore. I don’t want to spoil too much but it’s not all gone. It’s just kind of converted”.
“I’ve always loved particularly the original Japanese franchise, particularly the earliest of the movies. So Ju-On: The Curse. People always think The Grudge is the first one but it’s actually the third one. To me, those first couple of movies, because they were done with such a lo-fi style, there’s something that feels almost home movie-ish about them, and as a result it’s so much scarier, being so grounded and so realistic. The ghosts aren’t totally done up. It’s not a big prosthetic thing. The ghosts feel like real people. Everything just feels so real and that is something that I always connected with, and liked, that they were a little grittier, a little rougher around the edges, not so slick. Because of all that they were so much scarier to me.”
So that’s what I really fell in love with. And kind of the sprawling nature of it. All of the Japanese films are an anthology rather than sequels of each other. Every movie is a different story with different characters, based on a different crime. So I just loved the sort of, like, there’s a canon here. There’s a mythos, and each movie adds new pieces into that mythology. So that those were all the places that I came at this film from. Being super grounded and basing it in realism, and just wanting to add a new installment into this anthology”.
The Grudge is also written by Pesce and stars Betty Gilpin, Andrea Riseborough, William Sadler, Lin Shaye and John Cho.
It’s in cinemas on January 3, 2020 – which gives me plenty of time to find and watch those first two Grudge films and see if they’re effective as Pesce says. I found the 2002 Ju-On: The Grudge and the 2004 remake to be pretty scary, though the sequels didn’t really get there at al lin my opinion.