Sadako vs. Kayako, 2016
Directed by Kôji Shiraishi
Starring Mizuki Yamamoto, Tina Tamashiro, Aimi Satsukawa, Misato Tanaka, Mashahiro Kômoto, Masanobu Andô, Rina Endo, Maiko Kikuchi, Elly Nanami, Rintaro Shibamoto
The vengeful spirits of the Ring and Grudge series face off.
Frankenstein Meets The Wolfman, King Kong vs. Godzilla, Freddy vs. Jason, Puppet Master vs. Demon Toys. We sure do love to see two iconic franchises clash together on the big screen don’t we? This year alone we’ve seem Batman take on Superman for eight minutes, and even Earth’s Mightiest Heroes collided in Captain America: Civil War. Wanting to capitalise on this recent resurgence, The Land of the Rising Sun has released a movie that pits the ghouls and curses from The Ring and The Grudge in Sadako vs. Kayako – and it’s a hell of a lot of fun.
That fun comes from Sadako vs. Kayako knowing exactly what it is and what it’s trying to achieve. For all intents and purposes, this is a very silly idea and the movie knows that. And so Sadako vs. Kayako jaunts along its runtime, constantly winking at the audience to remind us that these girls are being haunted by a VHS tape. The opening twenty or so minutes of the film seem to be poking fun at the set up of Ringu and how its become this 90s urban legend that couldn’t happen in a world where VHS is a dead format.
Impressively though, Sadako vs. Kayako also knows when it needs to turn up the scares, and director Kôji Shiraishi flicks this switch when necessary. You could go from a scene where madcap professor Morishige is begging to meet Sadako face-to-face and it will then be juxtaposed with young boys being hunted and killed by the ghouls from Ju-On. The scenes that tell The Grudge‘s story are the most effective, though there will always be something inherently creepy about Sadako.
It’s a real shame then that Kayako is treated like such an after thought. The movie opens setting up Sadako and then flips across town to begin Kayako’s story, but we rarely return to it. It means that Tina Tamashiro’s Suzuka – who is being haunted by the Saeki clan – is a real non-factor in the film, making her final act appearance feel tacked on. For the most part it isn’t even Kayako on screen, instead using Toshio to bring his cat-like scares. We spend so much time setting up Sadako as a threat for Yuri (Mizuki Yamamoto) and Natsumi (Aimi Satsukawa), and not enough as an antagonist for Kayako.
Worse still, the battle between the two is less King Kong vs. Godzilla and more Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. For all its faults, Freddy vs. Jason pitted the two slasher stars against each other for the majority of the final act, but Sadako vs. Kayako doesn’t fully deliver. When they do fight its great fun, but there isn’t enough of it. Like a teenager losing his virginity, it’s all over before its even begun.
But really this is all just nitpicking, because Sadako vs. Kayako is tremendously entertaining from start to end. The characters are good fun and played well (Battle Royale‘s Masanobu Andô is particularly great), the script takes its source material seriously but not itself, and the sight of Sadako and Kayako stalking two innocent humans wanting to stay alive is brilliant. The body work from both Rina Endo and Elly Nanami is stunning, and Sadako vs. Kayako will leave you with a huge smile on your face. Could it have been better? Of course. But when was the last time a franchise clash delivered?
Yes I know it was Captain America: Civil War, but you get my point.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Luke Owen is the Deputy Editor of Flickering Myth and the co-host of The Flickering Myth Podcast and Scooperhero News. You can follow him on Twitter @ThisisLukeOwen and read his weekly feature The Week in Star Wars.