In a two-for-one news post with a tangential connection, Sony just dropped the first trailer for their “twisted new vision” of The Grudge while they also announced that Charlie’s Angels would be opening day-and-date with China.
The latter is self-explanatory. Elizabeth Banks’ action comedy, which cost $48 million, stars Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott and Ella Balinska as the title heroes, and is tracking for an over/under $15 million debut when it opens two weeks from Friday. That’s not great, especially when you consider that McG’s Charlie’s Angels movies (starring Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz and Lucy Liu) opened with $40 million and $37 million respectively in 2000 and 2003 before earning $264 million and $259 million worldwide. That said, those films cost $100 million and $125 million, and neither of them played in China, so the stakes are different.
Meanwhile, we got our first trailer for Screen Gems’ new version of The Grudge. If you recall, or not, the 2004 blockbuster was itself a remake of a Takashi Shimizu horror flick, in this case directed by the same man who helmed the original. The film was the first big Japanese horror remake after Gore Verbinski kicked off the mini-trend with The Ring in late 2002, and as such the first Grudge opened with a massive $39 million the weekend before Halloween. Heck, the Sarah Michelle Gellar/Bill Pullman flick earned $22 million in weekend two, topping the $18 million debut frame of the first Saw film 15 years ago tomorrow.
The Grudge trilogy, yes there were three of them (the third went straight to DVD in North America), earned $295 million worldwide on a combined budget of $35 million. In Japan, Ju-On spawned nine (!) movies between 2002 and 2016, climaxing with Sadako vs. Kayako, a Freddy Vs. Jason-like romp pitting the villain of the Grudge movies against the killer girl from The Ring series. I haven’t seen it yet, so no word if both of their mothers are na… ah, never mind. Because everything that was once successful because it was new and different must now be revamped or rebooted because it is old and familiar, The Grudge is getting the revamp treatment.
It will allegedly be connected to the American trilogy and the Japanese franchise, which means you’ve homework between now and January 3, 2020. But, no, I’m pretty sure that this movie, produced by Sam Raimi and directed/written by Nicolas Pesce ( The Eyes of My Mother), will be safe for newbies. If Marvel can make an Avengers: Endgame that folks who’ve never seen an MCU movie can follow, then I’m sure Sony can make a Grudge continuation for folks who never saw the previous 12 entries. Does this movie look compelling both to fans of the original series and to folks who couldn’t care less about The Grudge?
Offhand, I’d say “yes.” First, it’ll be an R-rated movie, something the marketing is trumpeting in “Look at me!” red font on the trailer and poster. The first two were PG-13 while the third one was indeed an R-rated film. Moreover, the cast is spectacular, with John Cho, Andrea Risenborough, Demián Bichir, Betty Giplin, Lin Shaye, Jacki Weaver and William Sadler. Do I care one bit about The Grudge? Not really, as I can barely remember the ones I did see. But am I interested in an R-rated horror flick with that cast? Yeah, yeah I am. I’m in “trust but verify” mode.
Besides, The Grudge cost $10 million in 2004 while The Grudge 2 cost $20 million in 2006, so I’m presuming this didn’t break the bank. More importantly, and this goes toward Charlie’s Angels as well, The Grudge needs to show that Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle wasn’t a fluke in terms of Sony revamping their previously successful properties. No, nobody expected that sequel to earn $962 million worldwide two years ago, but it was followed by The Girl in the Spider’s Web ($35 million global on a $43 million budget) and Men in Black: International ($253 million/$110 million, but with miserable, franchise-killing reviews and reception).
I don’t yet know if Charlie’s Angels is any good. It looks fun, but I seem to be the only one who cares and recent history suggests that if it were a big winner than myself (and/or other critics) would have seen it by now. The key to Jake Kasdan, Matt Tolmach’s Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle was that it took an IP and turned it on its head, offering the “opposite” plot (instead of a game coming into the real world, kids got sucked into the game), a video game-based story (which allowed them to mock video game tropes) and a kid-friendly cast (Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black and Karen Gillan).
Welcome to the Jungle was immensely appealing even for folks who couldn’t care less about another Jumanji. Conversely, Girl in the Spider’s Web, Men In Black International and (it would seem) Charlie’s Angels and The Grudge are essentially “the same thing you liked back in the day, but with different cast members.” Now both Charlie’s Angels and The Grudge are cheap enough that they don’t have to set the world on fire. However, as a studio comparatively lacking in IP (Sony, like Paramount, made their fortune on star-driven high concept movies that no longer pull in crowds), they need to show that Jumanji wasn’t the exception to the rule.
The Grudge is going to be next year’s official “schlock horror movie to kick off the first weekend of the new year” offering, so let’s hope it’s closer in quality to Escape Room than The Forest. Sony just passed $1 billion in domestic box office, even if $390 million of that came from Spider-Man: Far from Home and $140 million came from Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood. I’m expecting big things from Jumanji: The Next Level on December 13 and relatively speaking) Won’t You Be My Neighbor on November 22 and Little Women on Christmas. But they still need to show that they are more than Spider-Man and an occasional Jumanji-like miracle.