Judge Daniel Kelly once held a grudge. It involved adultery, whipped cream, and a selection of cook books.
You can't escape the curse
Me? I detested 2004's The Grudge, a J-horror retread so light on scares and credible scenes that watching the movie felt like a curse in itself. Now we are being offered a direct-to-disc third entry in this insipid saga, hardly a proposition to make one's mouth water. I mean, if the awe inspiringly turgid original could not only gain theatrical release, but also become a financial hit, how bad must this offering be? In truth, no worse than the 2004 box-office smash, indeed The Grudge 3 might even be better. It's still far from exemplary and at times borderline unwatchable, but has enough added guile to make it a franchise best.
Facts of the Case
The Grudge 3 continues directly on from the second installment, with that film's lone survivor promptly ripped apart by the curse that inhabits this franchise. Flash forward to the apartment block where the initial carnage took place, and the owners are having trouble attracting prospective tenants. Max (Gil McKinney, Jeepers Creepers 2) and his two sisters, Rose (Jadie Hobson, Blast Lab) and Lisa (Johanna Braddy, Samantha Who?), deal with the day to day runnings of the facility, but the horrendous curse that has already struck the building proceeds to do so again. Ghostly figures start to appear and spooky deaths reign supreme, leaving the family in more than just financial troubles. As everything looks to be going wrong, a mysterious women appears from Tokyo claiming to know how to finish the curse, but she might be too late as the evil takes hold of the small family itself.
As mentioned beforehand, my relationship with this franchise has thus far been a rocky one, and so I expected the absolute dregs when I put the DVD into my player. It's worth remembering that the film is still inherently unimpressive but in truth it's also vaguely watchable, a claim seldom made by direct to DVD sequels. Indeed fans of this horrifically lame series might actually find this the most rewarding of the Americanized versions, though in truth that's about as faint as praise can get. The Grudge 3 works from a basic narrative and never tries to tax the viewer or come off as overly clever, it is what it is and for that alone I was thankful. One of the greatest sins perpetrated by the first effort was an attempt to be a trippy and more cerebral style of horror, so when it failed with those targets it just came off as even more moronic than before. The Grudge 3 accepts its bottom dwelling roots and almost embraces them, never pretending to be more than a low grade and pretty disposable slice of filmmaking.
There is little to no point in attacking the screenplay, it's been formed from the most basic of horror templates and thus is largely to bland to offend. It's not that I'm excusing banality but rather patting the picture on the back for embracing it, something it's equally underdeveloped predecessors refused to do. The movie is middle of the road schlock from start to finish and never attempts to challenge your perceptions of the horror genre; it's built around jump scares and highly strung music, rather than the preconception that it's a special and unique piece of film.
How about scares? I have to admit the opening scene is nicely composed and had me jitterbugging, but everything after that is unremarkable and fairly close to type. Director Toby Wilkins ' never really seems bothered with mounting any genuine feeling of threat and dread, contented instead to rely on purely visual threat and his ability to have things pop out of anywhere. Hardly ferociously original direction, but it combines successfully enough with the benign screenplay to keep things inoffensive, if not fairly dull. Visually and musically the movie is spectacularly ordinary, nothing from a production or composition standpoint catches the eye or sticks in the memory.
The performances are acceptable, and probably represent the most intriguing aspect of the film. In particular Johanna Braddy gives a well executed and reasonably engaging turn as Lisa, whilst Gil McKinney and Jadie Hobson give reasonable if not utterly conventional performances in their respective roles. Everyone else pretty much acts on the grounds of a plot device, and thus has little of any real substance to do. However since that's the way the film so clearly wonders, I'm actually not going to draw blood on the topic.
From a technical view the disc is solid. There is a nice 5.1 Dolby track that should give the sound system a work out, and from a visual perspective the colors hold up well and the clarity is satisfactory. As extra features, Sony has included two brief and uninspired EPK style featurettes and a rash of muddled and unimpressive deleted material. Pretty weak on the bonus front then, but at least the small quantity of fans have been given something.
A rather boring horror experience, The Grudge 3 has at least the credit of not being as intolerably awful as its predecessors. If you actually managed to enjoy the other entries, feel free to buy this one, but everyone else should skip. It's not that the picture is awful, just not particularly worthwhile to anyone who has seen more than a half dozen horror movies.
Not quite as evil as I expected, but all the same, I'm giving a guilty verdict.
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