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‘The Grudge’ Director Nicolas Pesce Says 2020 Film ‘Way More F*cked Up’ Than J-Horror

Nicolas Pesce is making his Hollywood studio debut with a reimagining of the iconic J-horror franchise.

"The Grudge" (2004)

“The Grudge” (2004)

Kenji Takeuchi/Columbia/Kobal/Shutterstock

After making his mark on indie horror with his 2016 feature directorial debut “The Eyes of My Mother,” director Nicolas Pesce is going studio for the first time with Sony’s 2020 horror release “The Grudge.” The movie, also written by Pesce, is based on Takashi Shimizu’s 2003 Japanese horror film “Ju-On,” which inspired a 2004 English-language remake directed by Shimizu and starring Sarah Michelle Gellar. Unlike Gellar’s PG-13 rated horror film, Pesce and Sony are going with a hard R rating for “The Grudge” this time around, which should be welcoming news for fans of Pesce’s grisly and disturbing “The Eyes of My Mother.”

When asked at New York Comic Con how his “Grudge” would be different from all the previous movies in the franchise (the 2004 movie spawned two sequels), Pesce promised Sony’s openness to an R rating would result in the most disturbing “Grudge” yet. “The movie’s way more fucked up,” the director said. “Not that the wave of J-Horror in the early 2000s wasn’t fucked up — but this is really fucked up.”

The J-horror genre is known for being far more gory and disturbing than American horror films, so it’s quite the promise on Pesce’s part to say the 2020 “Grudge” will be even more twisted than the 2003 Japanese original. Pesce was adamant his “Grudge” is not a reboot. While the director looked to previous films to shape the rhythms of his story (the movie once again features non-linear storytelling and multiple narratives), he stressed “we’re not rehashing the same story.”

“As far as the imagery, it was finding that balance between [old visuals and new visuals],” Pesce said. “We’re finding the key elements that are just how the grudge expresses itself. So much of this movie is about the fact that this can happen anywhere and that it happens everywhere. It can spread like wildfire. Having certain touchstones was important. Obviously with a franchise we don’t want to throw everything out. There is certain stuff that is fun for the fans to see again in a new context with a new spin.”

One famous image from the franchise that will reappear in the 2020 “Grudge” is a hand emerging from the back of a character’s head while in the shower. “There are homages and odes to J-horror stylistically, but it is a whole new story and characters,” Pesce added. “We try to find new ways of doing similiar things they have done.”

Pesce’s “The Grudge” stars Andrea Riseborough, Demián Bichir, John Cho, Betty Gilpin, Lin Shaye, and Jacki Weaver. Sony will open the movie in theaters nationwide January 3.

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