The original Japanese Grudge movie stands as one of the most relentless and disturbing horror movies of all times. When it was remade for American audiences back in 2004 under Sam Raimi’s Ghost House Pictures production company, it came with a PG-13 rating, which in all honesty didn’t soften the horror too much. Still, it had to pull some of its punches so that it could appeal to a wider audience. The new Grudge reboot, though, is giving a big FU to that PG-13 rating and the team behind it was dead-set on making that crystal clear at this year’s New York Comic Con. This Grudge reboot is rated R, and returning producer Raimi, along with director Nicolas Pesce, showed a trailer that fully embraced the R-ness.
The trailer starts with a detective (played by Mandy’s Andrea Riseborough) as she enters a house to speak with an old woman called Faith (played by Insidious’ Lin Shaye). The woman is already taken by the curse the movie focuses on and looks unkempt and dirty. She is the embodiment of horror. The character looks like it will allow Shaye to dial up her signature intensity as it felt that she’ll be constantly carrying her character’s madness on her sleeves.
We get flashes of terrors to come as the trailer rolls on, with ghosts walking in the background and dead bodies sitting in front of televisions showing static. The trailer lays it heavy with the tone and it definitely does not look like a fun popcorn movie. Pesce said as much during the panel, insinuating that the movie will be serious and personal. You can see it with your friends, but it doesn’t look like you’ll be getting a funhouse-style horror experience littered with jump scares. Pesce wants to you to feel haunted well after you’ve left the theater.
Raimi emphasized how important it was to bring in a visionary director and then to not restrict their creativity, which prompted another reminder the movie will be rated R. He stated that this type of movie had to find a way to remain relevant and that allowing Pesce to also write the script made sure the vision was never compromised.
Pesce’s previous movies, Piercing (2018) and The Eyes of My Mother (2016), are great examples of finding dread in horror set pieces. With Piercing it comes through the smart use of giallo techniques that disorient the audience and puts them in a kind of dream state where nothing is reliable. In The Eyes of My Mother it comes through a slow burn that finds true horror in some of truly gruesome reveals. The trailer suggests we’ll be getting more of the latter.
Raimi and Pesce were clear on not wanting to quite simply destroy the original movie and start completely anew. Fans of the first movie, for instance, will still get their shower scene, with the ghost hand coming out the back of the character’s head. In fact, this scene was shown in the trailer and where it once involved the ghost hand coming out of the back of Sarah Michelle Gellar’s head, it now falls to John Cho to get that particular shower scare.
Much like the original as well, Pesce and Raimi expressed wanting to make the ghosts feel grounded and simple. As the trailer showed, these aren’t see-through ghosts. They are in the room with the characters and, yes, they have the original movie’s look and feel. We got to see the Kayako ghost coming out of a bathtub, long black hair hanging from her head, covering a pale face with black eyes. We also heard the classic death rattle sound that help Kayako become such an iconic.
Lin Shaye took the chance to talk about how the movie’s ghosts and their scarier aspects helped her get in character. “Evil devours my character,” Shaye said, and her scenes in the trailer do a great job of capturing that.
Shaye also said something interesting about horror in general, about how it’s about “having a taboo experience in public.” She added, “fear is genderless, so going to a movie theater to see a horror movie is a fascinating way to see people sharing in a common reaction, like a unified force in fear. It’s all a collaborative scream!” This has to be one of the most interesting takes on what it means to watch horror in the movie theater and is compelling enough to get everyone to see The Grudge when it releases in 2020.
We had another peek at what’s to come with a bonus scene where Shaye’s character is seen using a knife to chop something in the kitchen, her back to the camera. I’ll let your imagination do the rest.
The Grudge is slated for release on January 3, 2020 and stars Andrea Riceborough, Demián Bichir, John Cho, Betty Gilpin, and Lin Shaye.