Movie Review: Sadako Vs. Kayako (Lights, Camera, Action!)

By Drew Hurley 21.04.2017 1

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Sadako vs. Kayako (UK Rating: N/A)

When it comes to Japanese horror, there are few characters that are as well known or as significant in the modern day as Sadako from The Ring and Kayako from The Grudge. Even for those who do not watch world cinema, these names are likely familiar thanks to the big Western adaptations the movies received. Originally, Sadako vs. Kayako was teased as an April Fools' gag but after the video went viral, real production began. While the film has yet to receive a British physical release, it is available now on the Netflix for horror movies, Shudder.

The prospect of this movie was very exciting for Japanese horror fans, but early on in its production it was evident this wasn't going to keep to the same tone as the movies from which these horrific ladies originate. It's obvious that parallels are going to be drawn between this and Freddy vs. Jason, and they are sadly quite appropriate. While the films that preceded it make up some of the scariest J-Horror of all time, this will be winning no such accolades, instead delivering a silly, over the top and, at times, satirical movie.

After a few brief scenes showing Sadako claiming new victims, the film opens with a university professor, named Morishige, giving a bit of background to the cursed movie urban legend, spewing exposition at the audience in case they haven't seen any of the films. Coincidentally, one of the students, Natsumi, and her friend, Yuri, just happen to find an old videotape inside a VCR they have bought to digitise an old VHS to DVD. Yuri turns it on and gets Natsumi cursed, so the pair has to turn to Professor Morishige to help them. Morishige turns out to be some nut-job who is desperate to meet Sadako and watches it himself on purpose.

From here, the trio is in a race against time to find some way to lift the curse and stop Sadako - a common theme from the previous films. How it goes about it, though, is… odd; it involves calling in a slick, super exorcist named Keizo Tokiwa and his bad-ass, blind, psychic, young girl assistant, Tamao. This pair is introduced like the audience should know who they are… but they are original characters. It's unclear if the team behind this were hoping to build something for them off the back of this movie.

When Keizo rocks up into town, he finds out another girl has been going through some spiritual suffering, too. An old haunted house is killing off those stupid enough to wander inside, thanks to Kayako, along with her meowing son, Toshio, taking up residence. A local lass has peered too closely and gotten herself cursed, doomed to return to the house and get killed soon. Keizo has the genius plan to take Sadako and Kayako and "LET THEM FIGHT!" Pitting the two Onryo against one another in a supernatural smackdown for the ages, hoping they would kill each other and do away with the curses.

Sadako vs. Kayako is silly and over-the-top, but it embraces the ridiculousness and delivers something that often feels more satirical than a straight movie. Keizo and Tamao are a great example of this, with their running commentary of the goings on and the deadpan humour they deliver. Long time fans of either franchise will understand that neither has lived up to the chilling masterpieces of their heyday in a very long time; they have become repetitive and often almost a parody of what they were, so this can hardly damage the lineage. There are a handful of scares, too, even if it's sadly degraded to jump scares now.

The story may be mediocre but the production is fantastic, taking different cinematic aspects of both films and blending them together for some superb looking shots. The soundtrack is equally good. When it comes to the acting, for the ghoulish girls there are new actresses stepping up. Both are decent enough, each able to pop and move their body in the signature creepy movements. They are both overshadowed by Masanobu Ando's portrayal of the Jojo's style exorcist Keizo, though. J-Cinephiles out there will recognise him as the superb Kazuo Kiriyama from the phenomenal Battle Royale adaptation.

Rated 5 out of 10


Sadako vs. Kayako may have a lot of pedigree, but the resulting movie is mostly chum. It's dross, it's silly, it's dumb, it's a schlocky B-movie, but at least it's a kind of fun schlocky B-movie. Just like other face-off movies, like Freddy vs. Jason and Alien vs. Predator, this in no way lives up to the originals and ends up being yet another in a long line of unnecessary and uninspired sequels. Franchise fans will enjoy this daft dalliance, and the accompanying marketing events that came along thanks to it were plenty of fun, too. It's a fun and silly homage but, sadly, it's not a very good film.

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I've seen some people rating this surprisingly high, but I've watched it and it just didn't grab me at all, and it wasn't even scary, to be honest. Maybe Scary Movie has spoiled the meowing boy now, though...

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

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