by Erica NoboaJapan’s most notorious horror figures creep their way back onto the big screen, only this time, they’ll have to compete to decide who’s the scariest ghoul of them all. Sadako is the demonic young woman who terrorizes unsuspecting bystanders in Hideo Nakata’s 1998 film, Ring. Anyone who views her haunted VHS tape will receive a static call directly after the viewing and die mysteriously seven days later. Kayako is the spiteful spirit with the famous death rattle that debuts in Ju-On: The Grudge, where she and her son haunt the house they were murdered in, killing anyone who steps foot inside. When these demonic figures cross paths, they duke it out in order to claim the souls of the innocent. Sadako v. Kayako is the Freddy vs. Jason of the J-Horror genre, and hardcore fans of these two franchises will likely be pleased.
The film follows the separate hauntings of our two heroines, Yuri (Mizuki Yamamoto), an aloof college student, and Suzuka (Tina Tamashiro), a sweet high schooler. To kick off the plot, Yuri and her friend Natsumi (Aimi Satsukawa) stumble upon the infamous cursed videotape stuck in an old VCR they purchased from a thrift store. Just hours after being lectured on the urban legend of Sadako, they realize they’ve made a grave mistake when they receive a phone call from the entity directly following a viewing of the tape.
In a parallel story, Suzuka wanders into the abandoned house where Kayako was brutally murdered, making her the newest target for the vengeful ghoul. After both girls are at their wits end trying to figure out what to do, the exorcist Keizo (Masanobu Ando) and his blind sidekick, Tamao (Mai Kikuchi), hatch a brilliant plan to have Sadako and Kayako fight to the death. However, the climatic fight plays out for about a minute on screen, as the film fails to live up to its title. When the protagonists’ plan ultimately falls through, more complications arise that snowball out of control. In order to subdue both Kayako and Sadako, one of them must sacrifice themselves to seal the demons away forever.
Given its ridiculous premise, this film doesn’t take itself too seriously. The idea started out as an April Fool’s joke when a trailer debuted online teasing the ultimate showdown between two of J-Horror’s most popular villains. However, after receiving positive feedback from viewers online, the film was green-lit for production just months later. To hype up the impending fight, the marketing team went viral with stunts such as the creepy child Toshio’s hilarious Instagram account and a video of Kayako and Sadako’s first face off in a baseball stadium.
With a high production budget, Sadako v. Kayako is visually pleasing, from the special effects to the horrifying makeup and costuming. The film also pays both visual and thematic homages to well-known moments in past movies, such as Kayako’s bone chilling crawl down the stairs and the common plot point of the heroes ultimately losing to the antagonist. While the story plays out too conveniently and is quite predictable, director Kôji Shiraishi balances classic horror with satirical humor, leaving us with an entertaining and silly monster v. monster movie.
3 out of 5 stars