REVIEW

The Grudge with Jacki Weaver is a lacklustre horror movie

The Grudge (MA15+)

One star

Ever since her performance as Smurf in David Michod's 2010 feature Animal Kingdom won her an Academy Award nomination and sparked a career third-act resurgence, Jackie Weaver has been Hollywood's Matron of Honour.

Her career after that Oscar-nomination includes nearly 30 features in nine years, roles in seven television series, and a second Oscar nomination.

 Jacki Weaver in The Grudge. Picture: Allen Fraser/Sony

Jacki Weaver in The Grudge. Picture: Allen Fraser/Sony

Weaver is one of a handful of thoroughly decent big-name performers brought in to shore up this latest instalment of the series of American remakes/interpretations of the Japanese horror film Ju-On (which translates, apparently, as "curse grudge").

Visually, the film is terrific. Pesce the director is let down by Pesce the writer. He is helped along, though, by production designer Jean-Andre Carriere and cinematographer Zack Galler, chucking around a lot of low shots, moving cameras, and spooky sets

Just like her co-stars John Cho, Betty Gilpin and William Sadler, she is thoroughly underutilised.

I hope they all banked a nice pay cheque to make the experience worthwhile.

Whether the viewer thinks the film is worthwhile probably depends on their fandom for this particular horror franchise, or horror generally.

The premise for the series splashes across the screen in the film's opening scenes.

"When someone dies in the grip of a powerful rage a curse is born. It gathers in the place of death but cannot be contained. Once you encounter it... it will never let you go."

Spooky!

Across the series - this is the lucky 13th instalment across both the Japanese and American films - dozens of hapless and helpless folk foolishly move into homes that come with Japanese spirits, and not just in the liquor cabinet.

These folk rarely make it to the end of the film, and if they do, you can be sure their grisly end comes in the sequel.

This time around, writer-director Nicolas Pesce doesn't continue the storylines from the first collection of American remakes, beginning with the 2004 Sarah Michelle Gellar-led The Grudge.

In this world, one of those pesky screaming spirits finds its way across the Pacific from Japan to haunt a completely different American home.

Taking a nonlinear approach, the narrative jumps back and forth.

The house is investigated by two detectives and the film flashes back to the storylines of the various folk who met grisly ends, thanks to their visit to the house.

In the main storyline, Detective Muldoon (Andrea Riseborough) is newly partnered with Detective Goodman (Demian Bichir).

Muldoon is recently widowed, coping as a mother and throwing herself into work at a new posting in Pennsylvania.

The pair investigate one gruesome death and reluctantly, Muldoon's partner explains how this death has ties to a number of predecessors.

The flashbacks involve the woman (Tara Westwood) that brought the evil spirit back with her in her suitcase from Japan, and then later occupants - an unlucky real estate agent couple played by Cho and Gilpin, Goodman's former partner (Sadler).

And I haven't even gotten to Weaver's end-of-life carer.

Pesce spends the first three-quarters of the film setting up the various storylines, for each of them to pay off in almost non-stop violence and gore in the final 20 minutes.

That's a lot of characters to introduce, find some nugget of personality for the audience to connect to, and then dispose of.

The result is that you don't really connect with any of them, which makes those last moments just ho-hum.

Scary, but ho-hum.

Visually, the film is terrific.

Pesce the director is let down by Pesce the writer. He is helped along, though, by production designer Jean-Andre Carriere and cinematographer Zack Galler, chucking around a lot of low shots, moving cameras, and spooky sets.

The sound design is perfect for this kind of film, great in the cinema. I expect it will be extremely annoying for the parents of teens who will be buying this on Blu-ray in a few months.

Those kids should expect a lot of "turn that down!" coming from mum or dad in the kitchen.

This story Good cast in ho-hum horror flick first appeared on The Canberra Times.