A house is cursed by a vengeful ghost that dooms those who enter it with a violent death.
A housekeeper named Fiona Landers encounters the Ju-On curse in Tokyo. When she returns home, the curse follows her and causes her to kill her husband and daughter before committing suicide.
A real estate couple, Peter and Nina Spencer, are the first victims after the Landers family when Peter meets the ghost of Fiona’s daughter Melinda, who possesses him to kill Nina and himself. Another older couple, Faith and William Matheson, are plagued by the curse when Faith starts communicating with Melinda, ultimately leading to Faith killing William, and the ghosts also go after her psychologist Lorna Moody.
Detective Muldoon begins to investigate the murders and learns of the link between them and the curse. She burns the cursed house down in an attempt to end the curse. Unfortunately, it follows her home and kills her after her son leaves for school.
The Grudge describes a curse that is born when someone dies in the grip of extreme rage or sorrow. The curse is an entity created where the person died. Those who encounter this supernatural force die, and the curse is reborn repeatedly, passing from victim to victim in an endless, growing chain of horror. The following events are explained in their actual order; however, the film is presented in a nonlinear narrative.
The Saeki Family
Kayako Saeki, a housewife living in suburban Tokyo, is in love with college professor Peter Kirk, obsessively writing about him in a diary. Her husband Takeo becomes jealous as he discovers the diary and believes that Kayako is having an affair with another man. Takeo brutally murders her, their young son Toshio, and the pet cat Mar in violent rage. After Takeo hides the bodies in the house, Toshio’s ghost hangs him.
After receiving a letter from Kayako, Peter visits the Saeki house only to find both her and Takeo’s corpses along with Toshio’s ghost. Shocked, he flees the scene and kills himself the next day. The remainder of the Saeki family rise again as ghosts due to the curse, notably Kayako, who appears as an onryō ghost.
The Williams Family
A few years later, the Williams family from America move into the Saeki house. While Matt is thrilled with the house, his wife Jennifer and dementia-ridden mother Emma feel uncomfortable. Matt and Jennifer are quickly consumed by the curse. Yoko, a care worker, arrives at the house to find Emma alone before she encounters Kayako, who drags her up into the attic.
Concerned about Yoko’s disappearance, her employer Alex sends another care worker, Karen Davis, to take over the care of Emma. At the house, Karen discovers Toshio sealed up in a wardrobe and later on witnesses Kayako’s spirit descending from the ceilings to claim Emma.
Alex arrives at the house shortly after and finds Emma dead and Karen in a state of shock. Alex calls the police, with the presence of Detective Nakagawa. In the attic, Nakagawa and his partner Igarashi find Matt and Jennifer’s bodies, along with a human’s lower jaw. Meanwhile, Matt’s sister, Susan, is pursued by Kayako around her office building. At home, Kayako attacks her and she vanishes. While leaving work, Alex is killed by Yoko’s jawless corpse.
Kayako begins haunting Karen, who informs her boyfriend Doug of the situation. Karen researches the house, eventually confronting Nakagawa, who explains that three of his colleagues investigating the Saeki deaths were all consumed by the curse. That night, Nakagawa carries gasoline into the house in an attempt to burn it down, but is killed by Takeo.
After learning that Doug has ventured to the Saeki house to look for her, Karen races there. She finds Doug paralyzed and attempts to flee with him. Kayako crawls down the stairs and latches onto Doug, who dies of shock. As Kayako closes in, Karen sees the gasoline and ignites it.
Karen survives and in the hospital, she learns that the house also survived the fire. Visiting Doug’s body, Karen realizes that she is still haunted by Kayako.
2004, Tokyo – Fiona Landers (Tara Westwood) leaves the home where she worked as a live-in nurse. She becomes distressed by what she has seen in the house. Outside, she encounters the ghost of Kayako Saeki and her son Toshio.
Fiona later returns to her home in Cross Creek where she lives with her husband Sam (David Laurence Brown) and their daughter Melinda (Zoe Fish). Everything seems fine at first, with Sam and Melinda happily welcoming Fiona back. It is later reported that Fiona killed Melinda, and then Sam, before ultimately committing suicide.
Investigating the case are Detectives Goodman (Demian Bichir) and Wilson (William Sadler). Wilson enters the house to scope out the crime scene, while Goodman is too spooked to enter. Later on, Wilson feels unsettled, and he becomes disturbed and hysterical when he sees what appears to be Fiona’s bloody ghost.
Sometime later, a couple, Peter (John Cho) and Nina Spencer (Betty Gilpin) are expecting a child. The doctor tells them that their baby will most likely be born with Adrenoleukodsytrophy (ALD), which deeply troubles the couple.
The Spencers work as real estate agents. Peter goes to the house where the Landers family used to live. Outside, he encounters the ghost of Melinda, believing her to be a lost little girl. He tends to her for a few days while Nina is at home.
A few nights later, Peter and Nina talk on the phone. She expresses her concerns over having this baby, saying she never wanted to be a mother but that she has grown to care for her own baby. Afterward, Peter goes looking for Melinda. He finds the bathtub filled with blood, and he is grabbed by Melinda’s hands. Later, Nina goes by to check on Peter, only to find him possessed and holding a knife. He lunges at Nina and kills her and their baby before he is later found drowned in the bathtub.
A year later, an older couple, Faith (Lin Shaye) and William Matheson (Frankie Faison) have moved into the old Landers house. Faith has become disturbed and appears to be communicating with Melinda’s ghost. William calls upon a psychologist, Lorna Moody (Jacki Weaver), for help.
As Faith’s condition continues to deteriorate, Lorna suggests to William that they leave the house. William says that the house connects and binds all that live there, before and after them. Later on, Lorna shows up at the house to find that Faith killed William and is mindlessly slicing off her fingers. Lorna runs to her car and drives away, but she is attacked by Sam’s ghost, causing her to violently crash her car in the woods.
Months later, Detective Muldoon (Andrea Riseborough) and her son Burke (John J. Hansen) have moved to Cross Creek after the death of her husband. At work, Muldoon joins Goodman as they are called to the woods. They find Lorna’s car with her decayed corpse inside. Muldoon learns of Lorna’s connection to the Mathesons and goes to their home, where she finds Faith scratched up and bleeding while William’s rotted cadaver sits in his chair.
Muldoon later learns about the Landers murders taking place in the same house. She does some more research and even goes to visit Wilson, who is in a psych ward and is disfigured from burns on his face. After Muldoon explains her visit, Wilson knows that the curse has spread and has now latched onto Muldoon. Wilson is later killed by the ghosts.
Muldoon continues her investigation, even starting to notice things like Sam’s ghost appear on security footage. She learns that Fiona worked in the house in Tokyo where another set of murders all took place in the same house, believed to be the work of a specific curse called “Ju-On”, which is born from a rage-fueled murder. Fiona supposedly brought the curse back home with her.
Faith is placed in a mental hospital. She remains haunted by the images of the Landers ghosts, and she throws herself over a balcony to her death.
Muldoon decides to take matters into her own hands regarding the curse. She drives with Burke to the cursed house, leaving him in the car as she goes inside. Muldoon is haunted by the Landers ghosts before she starts spilling kerosene everywhere. Before she ignites the fuel, a vision of Burke appears to her, seemingly innocent and scared. Muldoon knows it’s Melinda’s ghost playing a trick on her, so she sets the house on fire to try and destroy the curse. She runs back outside to embrace Burke.
A while later, things seem to be normal again. Muldoon is getting ready for work, and Burke is getting ready for school. As Muldoon appears to hug her son, the real Burke appears from behind and bids his mom goodbye. She comes face-to-face with Melinda’s ghost, while Fiona drags Muldoon off to a grisly fate.