Ooh, this one was a let down, but with such a giant franchise, some of the installments are going to flop.
Maybe–just maybe–if this was a standalone movie, and no one in the world had prior knowledge of the Grudge or Ju-On universe, this movie would have scared the snot out of me, but it didn’t. I’ve never seen any of the Grudge movies until now; I avoided them, much like the Ring movies, because I didn’t want to be afraid of the bathroom at night (unfortunately, I am anyway.) Maybe it’s good that I got one of the worst movies out of the way.
The Grudge 3 is directed by Toby Wilkins as opposed to Grudge-movie-originator and director of Grudges 1 and 2, Tamaki Shimuzu (a different writer, too.) It’s one of the only Grudge movies available to stream (found on Prime Video; you can rent or purchase the other two with a Prime account, though), hence why I chose to watch it. It was scary, but it didn’t give me shivers or anything, and, well, I only cared about one character.
The movie starts off with a long opening credits reminiscent of older film, with the history of the curse interspersed in black and white images of the violent end of the Saeki family and the birth of the grudge curse. Then, poor little Jake (Matthew Knight) from The Grudge 2 is locked in a room in a mental hospital where Kayako (Aiko Horuichi) breaks every bone in his body and throws him into walls as an invisible force on the security cameras. Poor little Jake.
Then we fly over to Japan, where Kayako’s (the woman ghost of the movie, who haunts with her son, Toshio (Shimba Tsuchiya), and their cat, I guess) younger sister, Naoko (Emi Ikehata) is “shamed” with the news of Jake’s death by some coworker of hers, and she decides to use her knowledge of the dead to help get rid of Kayako (not sure what was supposed to happen to Toshio, but I didn’t see him kill anyone so maybe he’s kind of chill? Don’t know.)
Then we head back to the US–Chicago, to be exact–and hang out with the younger sister of the person who runs the building where Jake and his family were haunted by, and most of them killed by, the ghosts. Young Lisa (Johanna Braddy), dressed very 2009, apparently runs around every unrented apartment in the building–and a lot of them are becoming empty as renters leave the scene of a family’s death–to mess around with her boyfriend, Andy (Beau Mirchoff.) They accidentally stumble into Jake’s family’s apartment and run out as fast as they can, but they were probably already going to be haunted, so, sucks for them, I guess.
And that was the opening. I felt that it was a little disjointed, jumping back and forth and introducing characters that seemed important, then leaving them for a while, but it ultimately didn’t bother me. One thing that did bother me was that I hated or felt completely neutral about almost every character. Yikes! Lisa was pretty annoying and kind of irresponsible, her older brother Max (Gil McKinney) had no real motivation besides taking care of his sisters and then pretty quickly became evil, Andy was barely around, and Naoko was also barely around but then tried to sacrifice my favorite character, Max and Lisa’s kid sister, Rose (Jadie Rose Hobson) to stop Kayako. Whew.
AND they’ve got Shawnee Smith, a horror film-experienced actress, playing Jake’s doctor, Dr. Sullivan. She barely gets any screen time, barely has a point besides confirming for Lisa that the ghosts are real, and then she dies an inspiring and dry death. Blah.
Some people die, but the deaths aren’t particularly scary or gruesome, except one where Kayako crawls across a floor in her signature style and croaks all up in the face of Rose’s babysitter. There are a couple of other moments that might chill me a little more when I’m alone in the dark, like Toshio petting Rose’s head and down her face as she tries to sleep, but that’s about it. I wasn’t horrified. It was not the fright I expected from the Grudge franchise. I was let down.
There’s a big fight scene; Max gets taken over by the by spirit of Takeo, the husband of Kayako and father of Toshio, who also happened to kill them both (and their cat!) along with himself to start this whole shebang. Max, under now less uptight and more covered in sweat, gets, unfortunately, 200% hotter (Nelson and I turned to each other during the same moment of Max staring into the camera and said, “This might sound awful, but…”) and also a bajillion times meaner. He kicks Lisa out and complains about taking care of Rose with her life-threatening asthma attacks.
Lisa, unsure what else to do, goes to Naoko, who says she can end all of this suffering, but first they have to get Rose away from Max. Lisa lures Rose out of the apartment and they go to a dark room where Naoko performs a ceremony and tells Rose to drink from a bowl to put the spirit away. Lisa obviously will not let her little sister go through with this, especially since Naoko explained that her mother used to make Kayako “drink the ghosts” of possessed people to take their, well, ghosts away, and it kind of ruined the kid’s life, understandably (what she actually drinks is blood, and it is gross.)
But then Max appears and fights with Naoko, eventually stabbing her through her neck from behind in a very gruesome manner (not my cup of tea), then she comes back as her own ju-on and bites into his neck, killing him. During this, at some point that I didn’t notice (sorry), Rose is separated from Lisa and drinks the blood bowl to stop the ghosts. I was very, very sad at this point, because Rose is adorable and didn’t deserve any of this! But she is also kind and courageous, so she drank it, and then she passed out.
After giving Rose her oxygen tank, everything seems fine. Police and paramedics arrive, but they don’t arrest Lisa, the only adult known adult on the premises filled with dead bodies. Lisa leans in to hug her younger sister, telling her everything will be okay, and the camera pans around Lisa’s body to show not Rose, but Kayako, croaking it up. End scene.
But I didn’t hate it. I don’t think the plot or the writing was phenomenal. Jamming both Jake and Naoko’s storylines in there didn’t make for a very breathable or poignant story. And most of the people who die aren’t even in the family; instead, Kayako and Toshio hunt down old tenants, current tenants, and stray boyfriends to destroy. Just like the movie, the spread of killings is much too thin and distant, and I just can’t stay interested in stuff like that.
That being said, the ghosts are still freaky, and I think it definitely made me more interested in the Grudge universe than Ju-On: Origins, which honestly deserves its own scathing review. But I don’t see myself ever recommending it or willingly watching it again, ever. Like, ever.
Boo. I was really excited for this one! Hopefully the Amazon originals I have planned over the next few days will be better (please let them be better.)
Best of luck on your horror adventures,