Here’s How The Grudge Works, In Case You Were Blessed Enough To Forget

Photo: Courtesy of Sony Pictures.
New year, new curse. Except, well, this curse isn’t exactly new. If you saw the The Grudge in 2004 or the Japanese original (Ju-On: The Grudge, released in 2002) then you’re probably familiar with The Grudge curse — and you might also remember being freaked out by showers and super long, black hair for awhile. The 2020 reboot of The Grudge is out now, and while the plot and characters may be different, the curse remains pretty much the same. Here’s a refresher in case you decided to block it out back in the early 2000s (and hey, we wouldn't blame you).

What Is The Grudge Curse?

The Ju-on, or Grudge curse is created when someone is violently murdered and suffers so much emotional agony that their spirit (called “onryō”) essentially becomes part of the home in which they died. If anyone has the misfortune of discovering said home, that person is infected by the spirit’s undying rage. The onryō follows the victims back to where they live and kills them as an act of revenge.
The Grudge curse has impacted many families, but the one we’re first introduced to is in Ju-On: The Grudge. In the film, we meet Kayako Saeki, who falls in love with her college professor. Her husband, Takeo, finds out and murders her, their son Toshio, and their cat — and he hides their bodies in the house. Later on, Takeo is killed by his dead son, who seeks to avenge his and his mother’s life. The spirit of Kayako remains, and infinitely curses the house, claiming victim after victim.  

How Does The Curse Work In The New Grudge Movie?

The new Grudge movie doesn’t bring us back to Karen’s story in the 2004 version, in which Sarah Michell Gellar plays an exchange student living in Japan who discovers that her assigned home is hella haunted. Karen informs her boyfriend Doug (Jason Behr) about the house (which she finally learns is possessed by the spirit of Kayako, played by Takako Fuji). Doug heads over to the house to find Karen, only to be attacked by Kayako and is scared to death, literally. To try and defeat the curse and Kayako's tortured soul, Karen pours gasoline all over and sets the Saeki home ablaze... only to find out later that it survives the fire and that Kayako is now haunting her. Bad news bears.
Nicolas Pesce’s version of The Grudge takes place in upstate New York in 2004 (the same year as the first American version of The Grudge), but also weaves throughout different timelines, following several different families. One of the families is Nina and Peter Spencer (played by Betty Gilpin and John Cho, respectively) who are a real estate team. They come across the Grudge curse when Peter goes to prepare a house for a showing, not knowing its murder-y history. He comes across a bathtub full of red-black soup, and whatever is inside of it promptly attacks him. He makes it out alive, but is nonetheless infected by the curse. In the trailer, you can spot a scene which pays homage to the original Grudge movie: Peter runs his fingers through his hair in the shower, only to have the fingers of a corpse crawl out of his own skull. 
The other family affected by the curse is Detective Muldoon (Andrea Riseborough) and her son. Detective Muldoon visits the damned house after Peter tells her something bad happened there, so she goes to check it out, only to be followed home by the curse. Muldoon continues to investigate what happened, and finds more and more dead bodies who have seemingly been impacted by it as well. She's terrified, but determined to solve the case, since her young son's life depends on it.
Got all that?
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