SADAKO VS KAYAKO (2016) … Battle of the Japanese Franchises!!!

Huge thanks to long time reader and frequent contributor, James Saunders. James saw this film the other night and immediately contacted me to tell me he has to write the review. I love James’ writing style, so this was a no-brainer. This film also falls square in the realm of the Women in Horror Month. Enjoy!!

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Even as a young child I was always fascinated by the irresistible force paradox, “What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?”  Obviously being a child I was not able to put in it into quite that succinct wording but I was defiantly aware of and fascinated by the concept.  This interest and fascination in the irresistible force paradox is something which has continued with me throughout my adult life until this day.  I remember very clearly thinking after having watched the 2004 American version of THE GRUDGE that having Kayako from that film pitted against Samara (Sadako in the original Japanese version) from the 2002 American version of THE RING would be fantastic, as both those malevolent entities would be the very personification of the idea “What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?”  I have therefore been waiting for this movie for very long time, wondering what entertaining, horrifying answers we could get to the irresistible force paradox?  Today I can say unequivocally that those answers have absolutely NOT been answers because SADAKO VS KAYAKO is boring as f**k!

SADAKO VS KAYAKO is a Japanese film directed by Kôji Shiraishi and obviously, it follows on from the events of RINGU (1998, the original film and Japanese version of THE RING) and JU-ON (2000, the original film and Japanese version of THE GRUDGE) and both of those franchises respective sequels, rather than any of the American versions.  Whilst I have seen the Japanese versions of RINGU and JU-ON and some of their sequels I fully admit that I have not watched them all so I may be missing some crucial information.  However, I did feel everything was explained satisfactory in this movie and I did not feel that I was missing out on anything in particular by not having watched all the sequels.  That bring said if you are planning to watch SADAKO VS KAYAKO I do recommend that at least watch RINGU and JU-ON first… and probably just stop there because both those are much better movies and don’t deserve to have their good name besmirched by this garbage.

The plot is “sort of” split into two parts focusing on two university students Yuri (Mizuki Yamamoto) and Natsumi (Aimi Satsukawa) for THE RING plotline and a high school student Suzuka (Tina Tamashiro) for THE GRUDGE plotline.  I put “sort of” in quotation marks because this really is not a RING and a GRUDGE combination movie, it’s flat out a RING movie with some elements of THE GRUDGE finely, very finely scattered throughout the movie.  The predominant focus of SADAKO VS KAYAKO is on Yuri and Natsumi as they try to figure out how to deal with Sadako’s curse after having watched her video tape.  In total I think there are about four cutaways to Suzuka to explore THE GRUDGE plotline, getting me very excited every time in thinking “Yay we finally get to explore some GRUDGE stuff!”  But my excitement was always very quickly dashed as all the cutaways to Suzuka are very brief and really are probably just there to remind the audience that, yes this is supposed to be a GRUDGE movie too.

We start the film proper with Yuri and Natsumi falling asleep in university lecture about curses, where both Sadako’s cursed tape and Kayako’s cursed house are mentioned.  At first I thought that Yuri and Natsumi were just falling asleep because they found the lecture boring but actually this first scene of them is a pretty good indicator of how they behave for the rest of the movie.  Yuri becomes unravelled almost immediately upon watching the cursed tape and bleats on and on, but in a very subdued way, about dying soon. Natsumi is ridiculously apathetic throughout the entire film never really registering an emotion beyond mild surprise.  Nether one of them seems in anyway remotely interested in trying to fight for their own lives which makes them extremely uninteresting characters to watch.  It’s like watching a stoner on a deck chair whilst Jason Voorhees walks slowly up to him and he’s saying “Yeah he’s going to stab me to death but you know, whatever.”  Yuri and Natsumi are unfortunately about as exciting and engaging as a cream cracker.

Suzuka is stupid… that her entire character.  She is told again and again not to go into Kayako’s house but she does anyway, for a reason that is not really that good.  Beyond that there is not a lot to say about Suzuka as she isn’t in the movie all that much.

The next few paragraphs contains some minor-spoilers, which in reviewing the “vs” part of this movie cannot be avoided.  However, this movie contains absolutely zero twists and/or turns or really anything interesting happening in it at all, so I’m not really spoiling anything but if you really don’t want this rubbish in spoiled for you in any way then stop reading now!

We get to the “vs” part of the movie when Yuri and Natsumi seek the help of a magician named Keizo (Masanobu Ando). Keizo came into the movie and pretty much from the get-go has John Constantine written all over him in everything but his name, right down to having a quirky psychic partner named Tamao (Mai Kikuchi) and whilst I can’t remember exactly what she did in the movie, I think it was closely equated with nothing.  “Oh good,” I thought to myself as the Constantine rip-off paraded around doing his stupid invisible yoyo hand tricks all over the place “A badly realised Constantine rip-off is exactly what this movie didn’t need!”  Now I like Constantine well enough but a character like him was defiantly not needed in this movie.

Keizo’s solution for dealing with Sadako’s curse is to have her fight with another malevolent entity, Kayako – and oh maybe at the same time they can save a high school girl from Kayako who just happens to be hanging out in her house, because why not?  Yuri, Natsumi and pretty much my own reaction to this was “F**k it, seems legit.  Let’s give it a whirl,” so off they trot, saving Suzuka from her life of short mediocre cutaways, to have Sadako and Kayako duke it out.

This is the only half way decent part of the movie and if you really want to see Samara (Sadako) and Kayako go at it then there are some admittedly cool things to be had in their fight.  However, the cool things are still not very inventive, clever or creative for to two spectral otherworldly entities battling against one another and the whole thing is over far too quickly.  The ending is also totally ridiculous and doesn’t really make any sense in the context of the previous films.  In short, it’s not worth sitting through this schlockfest for just a few brief good moments.  If you really want to see Samara (Sadako) and Kayako fight, then just watch the last 15 – 20 minutes of the movie.  You can learn everything you need to know about plot in that time and you’ll probably enjoy the fight more because you haven’t been bored to tears.

After waiting more than 10 years to see this movie, SADAKO VS KAYAKO is an unbelievable let-down.  The stupid pop punk song that plays over the end credit scenes really summed this movie up for me; it’s fanfiction!  This movie is complete and utter fanfiction; no energy, no imagination, no effort went into making this whatsoever.  This is such a shame because both franchises do such a great job in both the original Japanese version and the American version (yes, I do like the American version) of building up tension and dread.  In the originals, Samara (Sadako) and Kayako are forces of nature, like a tornado you can’t escape, slowly building up speed to bring a trail of death from beyond the grave and paralysing you with fear.  Samara (Sadako) and Kayako are so similar in their styles that for myself, I can’t help but think of them as a natural pairing of despair, terror and death instead of delivering on this awesome, terrifying, otherworldly pairing, all this movie delivered on was a desire to watch paint dry… which I think might have been marginally more interesting.

James’ Summary:

Director: Kôji Shiraishi

Plot: 1 out of 5 stars

Gore: 2 out of 10 skulls

Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains

Reviewed by James Saunders

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