Today I am ranking The Grudge franchise! Similar to The Ring ranking (you can check that out here), I will only be discussing the American movies. I have seen some of the Japanese versions but I’m not going to cover those in this post. However, I highly recommend checking out Ju-On Origins on Netflix. In this series, a curse is born when somebody dies under sorrowful or angry circumstances. Those who encounter this supernatural force are killed, and the curse is reborn repeatedly, passing from victim to victim in an endless, growing chain of horror. Without further ado, let’s get into it!
1.) The Grudge
In first place, we have The Grudge. The one that started it all. My rankings tend to go in order because films in a franchise seem to get worse as they go along. Not in all cases of course, but more often than not. The story follows Karen (played by Sarah Michelle Gellar), an American exchange student studying social work in Japan, who agrees to cover for a nurse who didn’t show up for placement. When she enters the assigned home, she discovers an elderly American woman lost in a catatonic state, while the rest of the house appears deserted and disheveled. As she is tending to her, Karen hears scratching sounds from upstairs. While investigating, she encounters spirits of the deceased Saeki family members. Within the house, a chain of terror has been set in motion resulting from tragic murders that occurred years before. As more people die, Karen is pulled into a cycle of horror and the vengeful curse that has taken root in the house. In my opinion, the first movie is legitimately scary. We have the iconic shower scene, Kayako wriggling down the stairs, plenty of jump scares and the God-awful closet of death. It’s disturbing from start to finish.
2.) The Grudge 2
In second place, we have the sequel. It follows Aubrey Davis, Karen’s younger sister, who travels to Tokyo to visit her in a mental hospital. After witnessing her sister’s horrific death at the hands of Kayako, Aubrey sets out to find the source of the curse along with a journalist named Eason. At the same time, an American teenager (Allison Fleming) studying at a Japanese International School, deals with a terrifying supernatural event inflicted as a prank by her classmates. Meanwhile, in Chicago, Jake Kimble is also caught up in the curse that seems to have spread to his apartment after Allison moves back there with her family. I remember seeing The Grudge 2 at the cinema and hiding behind my hands for most of it. It has such an intense opening scene. We learn that the curse, once enacted, will follow the victim wherever they go. There is something so terrifying knowing the characters cannot escape it. We also discover that it can be passed on from person to person. You cannot forget the disgusting milk drinking scene, the darkroom moment and the hospital hallway of doom. It’s a solid follow-up to the first film and I enjoy re-watching them back-to-back.
3.) The Grudge 3
Unlike the first two films, The Grudge 3 went straight to video. If that doesn’t tell you how it was generally received, nothing will. In Chicago, Jake Kimble, the sole survivor of The Grudge 2, is interned in a mental institution. His therapist, Dr. Sullivan (played by Shawnee Smith) does not believe that he is haunted by the malevolent ghosts of Kayako and Toshio. When Jake is killed in his cell, Dr. Sullivan decides to investigate further with an open mind. Meanwhile, Lisa, the sister of the building’s superintendent, steals the key of apartment 305 to have sex with her boyfriend. When she realizes that the apartment is a crime scene, she immediately returns to her own place, where she resides with her ill sister Rose. In the meantime, Naoko Kawamata travels from Tokyo to Chicago to stop the curse of her sister, Kayako. She meets Lisa and tells her that she needs hers and Rose’s help to stop the spirit. One by one, the residents are killed off as Kayako rebels. This just didn’t feel like a Grudge movie. It became too convoluted and the scares themselves, were very cheap. I can see why it wasn’t worthy of a cinema release.
4.) The Grudge (2020)
In last place, we have the 2020 remake. It was so woeful, I actually featured it in my top 5 least favourite horror films post. You can check that out here. The biggest disservice in this reboot was the lack of Kayako. She’s more of a side character, than the main spirit, who is a completely different person named Melinda. When you watch The Grudge, you do so for Kayako. Furthermore, you expect the story to feature the infamous cursed house in Japan. Not in this one! The entire plot takes place in Pennsylvania. The acting was bad, with a disjointed and confusing storyline. There were so many things that didn’t make sense. For example, if the house was supposed to curse everybody that entered, there would have been a slew of dead policeman and paramedics, who would’ve had to come inside to remove the bodies. Yet, there was no mention of this. This installment was pointless. It added nothing and I wish it hadn’t been made. Ugh!
Thank you so much for reading! Do you like this franchise? How would you rank it? I heard there may be a possible Ring/Grudge crossover film in the future. Intriguing!
Peace & Love