“Nothing ends, Adrian. Nothing ever ends.” That enigmatic quote, spoken by the superhero Dr. Manhattan to his former comrade Ozymandias in the pages of Watchmen, could just as well apply to our current era of pop-culture franchises and reboots. Even The Grudge, the horror saga that began in Japan before coming to America in 2004, is getting a new film next year, and EW can exclusively debut two new photos from the story. Nicolas Pesce, the director of The Grudge reboot, notes that the franchise is particularly well-suited to spawning additional films.
“The beauty of The Grudge franchise, both the American and Japanese iterations, is it’s an anthology series. Every movie is a different story of different characters having different interactions with this curse,” Pesce tells EW. “In today’s age where we’re remaking everything, I thought it would be fun to dive into The Grudge universe where we don’t have to remake anything, but rather a new chapter in this canon.”
The titular “grudge” of this franchise refers to a curse that activates whenever someone dies a particularly violent or horrible death. The location where that person died becomes supernaturally tainted, and anyone who enters that place afterward becomes infected with the curse. Like the Watchmen quote at the top, the curse never ends. Even after all these years and all these films, that core concept is what remains compelling to Pesce.
“I think the most compelling thing about the grudge is that it’s inescapable. All you need to do is walk into a house that feels unassuming, and you’re screwed,” Pesce says. “It’s not your traditional haunted house movie where you pull up to a creepy, Gothic-looking house and go, ‘oh god that’s haunted.’ A motif of all the films, especially this one, is that behind the most normal kind of house, inside the most normal-seeming life, there can be something horrifying — whether it’s real and grounded, or something otherworldly and terrifying, it can happen anywhere, behind any door, to anyone. It’s unique to this story and philosophically terrifying.”
The newest version of The Grudge is set in America — though, interestingly, it takes place at the same time as the 2004 film directed by Takashi Shimizu that starred Sarah Michelle Gellar as an exchange student living in Japan. That movie was produced by Sam Raimi (Evil Dead), and so is the new one. Andrea Riseborough (Mandy) plays a cop in a new town who comes across a seemingly-unexplainable case that leads her to a house that, in Pesce’s words, “has been grudged.”
“We follow her, as well as two other storylines, that are all interacting with this grudged house in small town America,” Pesce says. “Like the old films, it’s a tapestry of three different stories that interweave and all take place at slightly different times, centered around this one house that’s at the center of this case that this cop is working on.”
The Grudge is set to hit theaters on Jan. 3, 2020 and is rated R. Demián Bichir, John Cho, Betty Gilpin, Lin Shaye, and Jacki Weaver also star in the film. Check out exclusive photos above.