Sixteen years is a long time to hold a grudge, but that’s exactly what Sam Raimi‘s Ghost House Pictures has done. The latest installment in the American franchise, which began with a remake of Takashi Shimizu’s Ju-On: The Grudge back in 2004, is coming and in an exclusive new interview with the movie’s director and co-writer Nicolas Pesce (The Eyes of My Mother), we’ve confirmed that, even though the new film is also called The Grudge, “It’s not a sequel, it’s not a remake.”
“This movie takes place at the exact same time that the Sarah Michelle Gellar Grudge takes place,” Nicolas Pesce confirms.
“So Sarah Michelle Gellar is doing her thing in Japan, and this is what’s happening in America at that same time.
“So for people who know the old movies, American and Japanese, super well, they’ll see fun ways that we’ve connected it into the mythology and into the story and storylines that existed, while still making a totally separate story that, for all the people who haven’t seen the Grudge movies, this will still make sense to them,” Pesce adds.
Again, unlike the original American remake of The Grudge, this new film does not take place in Japan, but rather in “a small town in suburban America.” Pesce adds that the new locale will have an impact on the horrifying events, the new extension of the mythology, and even the way the ghosts look.
“Aesthetically, it’s a lot closer to the original Japanese films than the American ones, which made it a bit slicker,” Pesce says. “Is it in a Japanese house? No, but we tried to keep all of the same techniques and ways that they shot the house, and keeping it claustrophobic. So stylistically we tried to pull from what those old Japanese films were doing, but obviously setting it in different locations.
“I think the biggest difference in changing the location is, you know, Japan has certain folklore touchstones that mean a lot in Japan that don’t translate the same way [in America]. For instance, the Japanese ghosts in the original films are inspired by kabuki makeup, and cats have a very different context in Japan than they do in America,” Pesce continues.
“So what we tried to do was, you’re going to see a lot of odes to what they had done, but trying to bring it into an American folklore context. Not stray too far from what the old Grudge films had done but just sort of recontextualize it into a more American mindset when it comes to folklore. I don’t want to spoil too much but it’s not all gone. It’s just kind of converted,” Pesce says.
It’s an approach that makes sense for Pesce. The director explained to Bloody-Disgusting that his favorite films in the series were the originals, before Ju-On: The Grudge came out and redefined the series.
“I’ve always loved particularly the original Japanese franchise, particularly the earliest of the movies. So Ju-On: The Curse. People always think The Grudge is the first one but it’s actually the third one,” Pesce reminds us.
“To me, those first couple of movies, because they were done with such a lo-fi style, there’s something that feels almost home movie-ish about them, and as a result it’s so much scarier, being so grounded and so realistic,” Pesce says. “The ghosts aren’t totally done up. It’s not a big prosthetic thing. The ghosts feel like real people. Everything just feels so real and that is something that I always connected with, and liked, that they were a little grittier, a little rougher around the edges, not so slick. Because of all that they were so much scarier to me.”
“So that’s what I really fell in love with. And kind of the sprawling nature of it. All of the Japanese films are an anthology rather than sequels of each other. Every movie is a different story with different characters, based on a different crime. So I just loved the sort of, like, there’s a canon here. There’s a mythos, and each movie adds new pieces into that mythology,” Pesce says.
“So that those were all the places that I came at this film from. Being super grounded and basing it in realism, and just wanting to add a new installment into this anthology,” the director concludes.
But what about that OTHER installment in the anthology? The Japanese version of the Grudge franchise recently crossed over with another long-running, influential horror franchise, The Ring. Could Nicolas Pesce’s The Grudge set-up a crossover with Gore Verbinski’s American version of The Ring?
“It would certainly be fun,” Pesce laughs. “And a bizarre clash of cinematic styles. It would definitely be an interesting one. I’m trying to think who would win. You know, it would be a good matchup. I don’t even know.
“I think that was a really good example of how you can step outside of canon without ruining everything. Definitely this [Pesce’s The Grudge] versus Gore Verbinski’s Ring would be a very strange movie, and you’ll know why when you see my Grudge. But it would be fun!” the filmmaker concludes.
You’ll be able to see Nicolas Pesce’s The Grudge, starring Andrea Riseborough, John Cho, Lin Shaye, Betty Gilpin and Jacki Weaver, in theaters on January 3, 2020!