It’s been 10 years since the last installment in THE GRUDGE franchise hit theaters, but that spooky curse isn’t done with us just yet, and we're not ready to let it go, either. Fans of the series will be thrilled to learn that a new chapter is coming to the big screen in 2020.
Simply titled THE GRUDGE, the next movie is both a sequel to the previous films and a reboot of sorts. It's got new characters, a new story, and the same terrifying ghosts. Whether you’re new to the world of THE GRUDGE or in need of a quick refresher, we’ve put together a handy guide to everything you need to know about the series before the new movie arrives, starting with a look at the new Grudge GRUDGE trailer.
The new film called THE GRUDGE opens on January 3, 2020. Who says that starting the year off with a curse has to be a bad thing?
THE GRUDGE 2020 is directed by Nicolas Pesce, who previously made the indie horror favorite THE EYES OF MY MOTHER. The new film is a sequel to the 2004 movie, but it’s also (kind of) a GRUDGE reboot with new characters and a new story. A detective (Andrea Riseborough of BIRDMAN and MANDY) discovers that a house in her suburban neighborhood is plagued with the grudge curse – anyone who enters it will be violently killed. The curse attaches itself to the detective, who goes on the run with her young son. The sequel also stars John Cho (STAR TREK), Demian Bichir (THE NUN), and Betty Gilpin (“GLOW”).
When footage from the film premiered at New York Comic Con on October 3, Pesce explained how he approached the new film as both sequel and reboot, "It was about finding that balance, we’re not rehashing the same stories you’ve seen before, but finding those key elements. The Grudge can happen anywhere. Obviously we don’t want to throw everything out. There’s odes to the old films, both visually and stylistically, but it is a whole new story."
Before anything else, have a look at the new GRUDGE trailer, which reminds us of the curse at the heart of this series, and shows off some of the new horrors we can expect to see in the latest film.
After shivering through that footage, let's look back at the history of the series to see how we got to this point.
THE GRUDGE technically isn’t the first movie in the series! It’s actually a remake of a Japanese horror film called JU-ON: THE GRUDGE. That film inspired its own insanely popular franchise which includes movies, books, comics, and a videogame. Released in 2004, THE GRUDGE has a plot very similar to the Japanese version.
Karen (Sarah Michelle Gellar of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” fame) is an exchange student studying to become a social worker in Japan and living with her boyfriend, Doug. When she visits the home of an elderly client, Karen discovers the woman cowering and trembling, so scared she cannot speak. It doesn’t take long for Karen to discover the source of her terror: the ghosts of the Saeki family, who previously lived in the house and were horrifically murdered years before.
“The Grudge” is a curse that is born when a person or people, like the Saeki family, dies in a manner involving rage or extreme sorrow. The primary ghost in this family and throughout the movie franchise is Kayako, a housewife who lived in Tokyo and was in love with her professor. When Kayako’s husband Takeo discovered her diary, he killed her and their son, Toshio (who also appears as a ghost) in a fit of jealous rage. After Takeo finished disposing of their bodies, the spirit of Toshio returned and killed his father.
That wasn't the end of the curse, however. Not long after, Kayako’s professor goes to visit her home after receiving a love letter she sent before she died. When he discovers what happened to her, he takes his own life. Kayako, meanwhile, has become what the Japanese call “onryo,” or a spirit capable of inflicting harm on living people. In the first film, she becomes attached to Karen, and by the end of the movie, Karen realizes she cannot get rid of Kayako so easily.
At New York Comic Con, legendary horror director Sam Raimi, who produced the previous American GRUDGE films and is also producing the new one, said, “It’s kind of a lore that keeps going. Both the lore and the curse. When someone dies in a terrible rage, something dark is there and it won’t let go. That’s a story that’s as relevant today as always."
THE GRUDGE 2 is set two years after the previous film and follows Karen’s younger sister, Aubrey (Amber Tamblyn, THE RING). Aubrey goes to Japan to visit Karen, who has been confined to a mental health institution. Here's where it gets complicated. At the hospital, Aubrey witnesses Karen’s horrible death at the hands of Kayako. She meets a journalist who has been investigating the Saeki family curse ever since he rescued Karen, who once tried to set the Saeki family home on fire.
There's a mission to try to retrieve Kayako’s diary, in an effort to figure out how to stop the curse, but Toshio gets a hold of Aubrey and curses her, too. The big revelation is that Kayako’s mom was an exorcist who took evil demons out of people and put them in her daughter’s body, which explains a lot. It's not great parenting. Kayako’s mom warns Aubrey that the curse is irreversible, but she still tries to stop it and is killed by the spirit of Kayako’s husband. The story skips ahead a couple of years, as the curse takes hold of a trio of teen girls in Japan – one of whom, an American, moves back to Chicago, bringing the curse with her.
The third film begins with Jake (Matthew Knight), a young man in Chicago whose family was killed by the curse at the end of the second film. Now in a mental institution, Jake claims to be stalked by Kayako, but no one believes him. She eventually takes his life. Kayako’s sister, Naoko, hears what happened and travels from Japan to Chicago, where her suspicions are proven correct: Kayako and the vengeful spirits of her husband and son are responsible for multiple mysterious deaths. While attempting to perform an intense exorcism, Naoko is tragically killed – Kayako’s curse ends, but a new one begins.
The first trailer for THE GRUDGE makes the film look gnarly. This new installment will be rated R, too, which means no holding back. At New York Comic Con, Pesce said, "Now we have an opportunity to really lean into that deeper character study stuff that audiences love so much." Pesce promises a more intense and messed-up movie, which should thrill fans of the series.
All images courtesy of Sony Pictures.