“It’s happening again! It’s NEVER going to end!” That’s a cop, locked up in a secure psychiatric facility after shooting half his face off, ranting about the curse that drove him insane. His words may also be a healthy response to news that Sam Raimi has rebooted The Grudge haunted-house franchise. (Brief history: Takashi Shimizu directed the decent original and a sequel in Japan and made two out of three of the subpar Hollywood follow-ons.) Raimi produces here while directing duties pass to 30-year-old American Nicolas Pesce, who has come up with this franchise oddity: a mainstream horror movie with arthouse sensibilities, a potentially interesting streak of bleak realism and naturalistic performances – but zero scares. Forget about chilling to the bone, The Grudge barely drops below room temperature.

Pesce does solid work piecing together several story strands within a fragmented time structure. Andrea Riseborough gives a grounded naturalistic performance as Detective Muldoon, a cop grieving her husband’s death, which deserves a better film. Muldoon’s investigation into the death of a woman in some woods leads her to a string of gruesomely senseless murders, all connected to one suburban house. The owner, Fiona Landers (Tara Westwood), has recently returned from Tokyo and seems to have transported the curse from the earlier movies in her hand luggage. Bad news for Fiona and anyone who sets foot in her house: they’re all lumbered with the murderous wrath of the demon with the long black hair and croaky death rattle (Junko Bailey).

There are scenes here that should be scary but fall flat. A woman chews at the bloodied stumps of her own fingers. Nope. Maggots crawl into the nasal cavities of a decaying corpse. Nothing. The Grudge never gets going. And while Pesce doesn’t go overboard plundering the original films, the scares that he does resurrect – what’s that lurking under the surface of the scummy bath water? – are so well-parodied by now that they’re not creepy any more. Is there a ravenous fanbase demanding more of this? The Grudge may well be back for two or three more films, but I can’t help praying it stays dead and buried.

The Grudge is released in the UK on 24 January.


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