J-horror mash-up Sadako Vs. Kayako is a goofy but entertaining oddity
It’s pointless to carp about the very existence of the “team up” genre movie because, well, everyone does. And yet fans still flock to these sorts of films. This writer has never quite embraced the idiocy of pitting one franchise’s protagonist/antagonist against another, blending two self contained cinematic universes with only money on the mind. Alien Vs. Predator, Freddy Vs. Jason, Batman Vs. Superman et al are goofball concepts that remind me of little kids sitting around arguing about who would win in a fight, Aquaman or The Hulk.
That said… that one might be one helluva battle.
I might actually watch that.
Okay, so maybe fans ALL are ultimately those nine-year-old kids having pointless debates over the brawn of imaginary characters at heart. But when it comes to serious-minded horror, sometimes the twains should never meet. What happens in the shadows should stay in the shadows…
The latest horror movie mash up is Koji Shiraishi‘s Sadako Vs. Kayako, a brawl between the twitchy, bendy and vengeance-obsessed spooks from Japanese horror’s two greatest – and scariest – franchise champs, the former the lanky-haired little girl from the Ringu series and the jittery she-ghoul from the Ju-On (The Grudge) films. What on earth could any filmmaker do to justify these two existing on the same plain of reality let alone attack each other? While it’s kind of a bummer to see how low two once soul-crushing horror films have sunk into the pop culture cesspool and the goofiness of the idea doesn’t play out with any sort of sophistication, if you can check your cynicism at the door, Sadako Vs. Kayako is at least a distracting oddity.
The film sees plucky college kids Yuri Kurahashi (Mizuki Yamamoto) and Natsumi Ueno (Aimi Satsukawa) taking an Urban Legends course and learning of the cursed VHS tape that houses the vengeful spirit of Sadako. The pair get together to watch the tape and the familiar mechanisms ensue (though the tape promises death in 2 days as opposed to the standard Ringu seven) and the girls frantically race around trying to beat the curse, enlisting the help of their professor who thinks he knows enough about the tape’s history to stop its mechanisms. He’s wrong, of course.
At the same time, a gaggle of little boys vanish in the haunted Saeki house, inspiring psychic teen Suzuka to look for them. Her snooping accidentally re-awakens Kayako and her blue, oval-mouthed son Toshio and soon, the two plot-lines merge when a pair of Insidious-inspired ghost hunters show up and bring the two monsters together for the titular smack-down. Maximum carnage follows.
Sadako Vs. Kayako is goofy as all-get-out and though the ghosts themselves look great, they’re not scary at all, removed as they are from any sort of serious mystery to embed them in and goosed by shoddy-looking CGI trickery. The entire thing feels like an expanded viral video stunt, a fan-flick. But as we mentioned, that doesn’t mean you won’t have a good time. The Japanese have been cross-pollinating their movie monsters since the Golden Age Godzilla-era and that’s essentially what this team-up is, an excuse to economically revitalize two series’ creatures for the price of one. But one wonders if the hardcore fan-base for these two otherwise horrifying (and really, rather tragic) celluloid heavies will embrace such corny, cartoonish shtick. Watching Sadako Vs. Kayako is like turning the lights on in a carnival spook show; all is revealed and while it’s still not without interest, the thrill is gone and you never once forget that what you’re experiencing is all an illusion.