CS set visit for director Nick Pesce’s The Grudge
Was anyone asking for a remake of The Grudge? Director Nick Pesce was, as we learned on a set visit to his entry into The Grudge franchise.
“I am a big, big fan of the franchise, especially the original Japanese films, the Ju-On films,” the director shared. “As Hollywood started making more reboots and remakes I saw an interesting opportunity with The Grudge franchise. In the Japanese series, the stories are not sequels, it is an anthology. Every movie is a different family, a different crime, different stories. I thought there was a good opportunity to not be bound to making a remake or a reboot, but just making a new Grudge film. A new series of characters, a new crime. What’s awesome about The Grudge is that it’s very rules-based. There are a couple of key things every Grudge film needs. The second you walk into the house, you’re Grudged. It’s kind of chaptered and the stories are out of order. It’s non-linear. So we could take all those characteristics that were continuous through all The Grudge films, and make our own story and not be ruining The Grudge canon. This is just another installment in The Grudge story, in The Grudge mythos. As a big fan of that, it seemed a more interesting way to reinvigorate the franchise.”
Pesce promised that his installment in The Grudge franchise would not be an “Americanized J-horror” movie. “I think that, as a fan of J-horror, a lot of that is baked into my sensibilities. But in the way that a lot of the late 1990s, early 2000s remakes were trying to do the same thing as the J-horror movies, or at least using what became popular of the J-horror movies, there are definitely nods to that kind of stuff. We even go so far as to reference the original Japanese case that started the whole franchise. But we’re not trying to make a J-horror movie.”
We weren’t told anything about the plot of the film on set, which is unusual and makes it hard to put together an interesting set report. Andrea Riseborough plays Detective Muldoon, the new-in-town partner to Demian Bichir’s Detective Goodman, and they are looking into murders that surround a house.
Bichir talked to us about the scene we watched him film. “This is a really difficult moment. I’m trying to rescue my partner, my friend, Wilson, from his own depression. He’s going to a dark zone lately. I’ve been looking for him, I’ve been upstairs, in the police station. My other coworker just told me he’s down here. So I’m coming down here to take him away from this darkness – at least, I’m trying.
“I am Detective Goodman, and I’m dealing with this thing called The Grudge, which seems to be affecting everyone, ever since we had that case in that house. I somehow knew that I didn’t want to go in. I felt there was something weird about it. I was right. So we deal with that, but at the same time, I think this thing we call the Grudge is also your own fears and your own demons and ghosts, and they affect everyone differently. We all deal with them in many different ways.”
At the time Riseborough told us she was still discovering her character at this point but said that the big selling point for her joining the film was Nick Pesce. “At first I didn’t really have an idea of how we were going to rework the franchise. It’s first incarnation, it was so dark, so mysterious, so underground. In its second incarnation it was really different. I was interested to hear what we were going to do that would be different. Nick had no interest in making it a genre film that was stilted by the trappings of the regular genre formula. He just wanted to make a film. Nick has a really clear vision, he’s a great helmsman, he’s very kind and funny and sweet. I have no interest in working with egotistical, maniacal assholes.”
Pesce promised that the film will definitely be “grisly,” but that the horror comes more from the aftermath of the violence than the violence itself. “I’ve always believed that the audience’s mind is going to make everything way scarier than anything I could do with makeup or on screen. To me, it’s about the audience putting pieces together, and filling in the gaps themselves. Whether it is story beats or violence, we don’t actually show the violence, but we show you what happens after, and what it looks like when it is all done. It allows you to fill in the gaps in your own unique way and make that imagery for yourself.”
Another promise? That the use of practical effects will far exceed the use of computer graphics. “To me, the fun of horror movies is the practical effects. The original Grudge films, their ghost is a woman in Kabuki makeup and she’s a contortionist. There is so much more charm and it is so much more effective when the thing is there, being lit by the same light… it just feels so much more tactile. Whether it’s the ghost or the gore, nothing looks better than real life. It’s not the 80s anymore with bad wax prosthetics. We can do things that look incredibly realistic. I think it is a more guttural reaction for the audience.
“When we get into our full-on ghost modes, we are dealing with really elaborate animatronic prosthetics that is something that people don’t really do anymore. To me, my taste in horror relies on the more vintage stuff. There are bits and pieces that pay homage to the bigger, slightly more campy stuff of the yesteryear of horror, but also stuff that is just brutally realistic. Getting to play in that world is much more my taste. It’s fun for me to play with masks and light this stuff and make it as scary as possible, rather than like, ‘Yeah, we’ll fix it in post.’ I think the end result is that it will be far scarier.”
Co-written by Pesce and Jeff Buhler, The Grudge will hit theaters on January 3, 2020.