The Grudge is a classic piece of J-Horror that has seen a number of sequels and adaptations, including one starring Sarah Michelle Gellar. The latest take on the franchise, hitting theaters in January, has been produced by Evil Dead and Spider-Man auteur Sam Raimi, directed by Nicolas Pesce, and having been loosed from the shackles of earning a PG-13, will go in even darker directions than its predecessors! Raimi and Pesce, were joined by actors Andrea Riseborough, Lin Shaye, and Betty Gilpin for an intense New York Comic-Con panel that covered everything from how to act terrified to whether we’ve seen the last of Evil Dead!
(Spoiler alert: We haven’t.)
Click through for highlights from the panel!
Asked why now was the right time for an R-Rated take on The Grudge, Raimi spoke to the idea that since the original curse keeps going, this gives the filmmakers “the ability to tell relevant stories” and said that while they’ve hung onto the idea of The Grudge being a dark energy left behind by someone who died “in the grip of anger” that “what’s new is that the grudge has emigrated to America, and a new legend has been born for the United States.”
Pesce added that he’s excited that “audiences are so much more welcoming of this new wave of family-drama-infused horror. The Grudge is like a tapestry of different family’s stories…we can really lean into deeper character study stuff. It’s a deeper, human, character narrative.” And after making sure he was allowed to swear, he excitedly told the audience that “The movie’s way more fucked up! Not that the wave of J-Horror in the early ’00s wasn’t fucked up—but this is really fucked up.”
Riseborough, who was recently seen in Mandy, told Pesce the same thing she told previous director Panos: that she wouldn’t watch the movie “because it’s fucking terrifying.” Shaye, a veteran of the Insidious series, added “I never got to be this fucked up in a movie!” but went on to talk about her character, Faith, who has Alzheimers, saying, “The thing that fascinates me is that evil knows no boundaries. the character, Faith, is a very lovely woman who becomes infected—and it does terrible things to her. You enter this mythology and then you can’t get out.” And Gilpin told the audience that this is her first time acting in a horror movie, and that “I never saw any of the Grudge movies because I was far too terrified.”
The actors then got into a nuanced discussion of acting in horror. While Riseborough insisted that “ the experience of it is surprisingly buoyant! …we laughed a lot as well, when Nick wasn’t trying to drown me” all three actors commented on the weirdness of having to be professionally terrified. Gilpin tried to sum it up: “You’re telling your body there’s an emergency. it’s almost like there’s 100 people in your brain and 99 of them think [the horror] is real if a scene is going well, and only one is in on the secret. And then that one person is like, ‘Just kidding!’ and the other 99 are like ‘Dude! That wasn’t cool at all.’” Shaye added: “Your body doesn’t know you’re pretending.”
Pesce spoke to the excitement of giving the franchise an American spin: “All the movies are non-linear, with multiple families, the rules are that once you set foot in the house, you’re screwed, and it spreads like a virus, there are certain practical things. But this isn’t a remake or a reboot. we’re not rehashing the same stories you’ve seen before. It was about finding those key elements of how The Grudge expresses itself! This can happen anywhere. This thing can spread like wildfire. Obviously we don’t want to throw everything out—some stuff is just fun for the fans to see again in a new context. There are odes to J-Horror in there, but it is a whole new story, with new characters.”
He also dug into how the team tried to create the tone of the film, saying that they changed the look of the ghosts. “The beauty of the original ghosts is that they are not these ethereal wispy images, they are people that are standing there, they are physical beings, and that to me is so much scarier, and it’s simple—it was done with makeup. We wanted to keep our ghosts grounded…but with a spin slightly more towards American folklore would have us think ghosts are like.”
Asked about why modern horror is producing such fantastic performances, Shay theorized: “Fear is genderless…what’s exciting to me about going into the depth of your own personal fear is that it’s something that everyone can experience together. That collaborative scream, a sort of togetherness with strangers….it’s a unifying force. Everyone come together for one minute and have their own personal experience, but in a public way, in a safe space.”
With Sam Raimi in the room, the audience Q&A naturally turned Evil Dead-wards. Raimi said that while Bruce Campbell has said no to returning to the role of Ash (“He’s done with being kicked around by me and having me throw blood in his face.”) they are working on a new installment in the franchise, with Campbell coming back as a producer. So Ash is in good hands.
And finally, asked what each panelist is most excited for as they release The Grudge into the world, each member of the team had a revealing answer:
- Betty Gilpin: The acting. It’s like acting porn!
- Lin Shaye: I think Nick is the Salvador Dali of filmmaking!
- Andrea Riseborough: The grit of it, the realism—it’s harrowing and heartbreaking, and painful to watch.
- Nicolas Pesce: I’m excited for you to see how serious of a movie it is. it’s not like a fun silly time.
- Sam Raimi: I’m excited to see if the audience will rise to the challenge of what Nick and the group have created. It’s a challenging puzzle!
The Grudge hits theaters on January 3, 2020!