‘I have always had a soft spot for multiple narrative films,’ actor John Cho (left, with director Nicholas Pesce) said in an interview with The STAR. ‘When you are following four different characters, I find that to be exciting.’
A horror film with Asian take
Raymond de Asis LoL.A. Correspondent (The Philippine Star) - January 17, 2020 - 12:00am

In American horror cinema, Lin Shaye is a superstar.

Her face may not be instantly recognizable but mention her name to die-hard fans of the genre and you will know the level of her fame.

“That’s nice to hear. I hope so,” she sweetly and humbly responded when this writer told her of this fact during our interview in early December last year for her new movie The Grudge.

The 76-year-old actress has been scaring people ever since she appeared in A Nightmare on Elm Street in 1984. During the past decade, Lin has starred in Insidious films, one of the most successful horror franchises in recent years.

This year, she stars in The Grudge, a semi-sequel to the 2004 film based on the Japanese horror hit Ju-On: The Grudge. This would be the fourth American film in the series. Joining Lin in the movie are Andrea Riseborough, Demián Bichir, Jacki Weaver and John Cho. Acclaimed filmmaker Nicholas Pesce directed the film based on his screenplay.

“When I read the script, I was really excited to see what they were doing with this franchise and the fact that it’s 2020 and how rage is even more pertinent now and more important to discuss,” Lin said.

For the uninitiated, the “grudge” in the title describes the curse that is created after someone dies in extreme rage or sorrow. The curse takes on an evil form and whoever encounters this malevolent force suffers death and the curse is reborn again, passing on from victim to victim in an endless chain of horror.

In the movie, Lin plays Faith Matheson, a terminally ill woman afflicted with dementia and infected by the curse after she and her husband move into a house whose previous occupants met violent deaths. The story of Faith is one of the three main storylines connecting the curse. This 2020 update follows the same multi-character and non-linear styles of the original films.

Lin Shaye, star of The Grudge : ‘I really think this is somewhat an important film in terms of what we are facing in the world today, specially in our country. There is a lot of rage and it’s killing people and people are killing each other. It’s not good! I am very proud to be a part of it and I think Faith, dealing with old age and dementia, is also sort of taboo, you know, women aren’t supposed to talk about that stuff.’

Lin told us that she did not watch any of the previous films in the series but, after filming wrapped, she watched the original Japanese film out of curiosity. “It was eye-opening in terms of what Nick did. He really thematically created the same kind of atmosphere but updated it in a way that I think is important,” she said.

“I really think this is somewhat an important film in terms of what we are facing in the world today, specially in our country. There is a lot of rage and it’s killing people and people are killing each other. It’s not good! I am very proud to be a part of it and I think Faith, dealing with old age and dementia, is also sort of taboo, you know, women aren’t supposed to talk about that stuff.”

Plans to reboot the film were made in 2011 but production did not start until 2017, when Nick was hired to write and make the film after his debut film, The Eyes of My Mother, an unsettling black-and-white psychological horror art film, took Sundance by storm and garnered some of the best movie reviews in 2016.

Nick grew up in the suburbs of New York City and his weird fascination with dark histories of houses in his neighborhood formed the foundation for the film. “I sort of took all the folklore and rumors and legends about, you know, what crazy things happen in that house or that house that I think happens in every small town in this country and I kind of built it into a grudge movie.”

The visual style used in The Grudge shares similar aesthetics with his first film. “I like formalism. I really love the ‘70s Italian cinema that is very calculated, very composed. The dolly shots are very deliberate. That’s something I carry through all of my movies. Sure, we have moments with big scares and screaming and stuff but at the heart of it, in those quieter moments, we are really using the camera, the cinematography to elicit the feeling from the audience rather than whatever, story-wise, is happening on the screen.”

Another storyline in the movie involves Peter Spencer. Peter (played by John Cho) is a real estate agent who encounters the curse in the form of a lost girl as he was trying to finalize the sale of the same house where Faith has taken residence before. Horror!

“I have always had a soft spot for multiple narrative films,” John told this writer during our separate interview. “When you are following four different characters, I find that to be exciting.”

Another reason why he was excited to do the movie was its Asian take on horror. “It seems more natural to have run-ins with the supernatural in the Asian imagination,” he said.

Like Lin, it was Nick’s script that drew him in as well. “I really like Nick’s script. There’s a very adult human drama in there and the horror, the genre element, our ingénue, she is the star — the grudge is the star of The Grudge and not the actors. It allows us to do things riding on the coattails of that star that you can’t really do in films.”

This is the actor’s first horror film.

“I was sort of excited about pushing the boundaries of this genre and also pushing the boundaries of what I can do with my career,” he said.

The Grudge is now showing in cinemas nationwide.

A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREE LIN SHAYE
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