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‘Sadako vs. Kayako’ (aka ‘The Ring vs. The Grudge’) (review)

Produced by Reiko Imayasu,
Toshinori Yamaguchi, Juhiko Hirata
Based on Ring Trilogy and Ju-On
by Koji Suzuki and Takashi Shimizu
Written and Directed by Kōji Shiraishi
Starring Mizuki Yamamoto, Tina Tamashiro,
Aimi Satsukawa, Masahiro Komoto,
Masanobu Ando, Mai Kikuchi,
Misato Tanaka, Masayoshi Matsushima


Japan’s answer to Freddy vs. Jason is better than its American counterpart but certainly doesn’t qualify for “classic” status.

For those who don’t know – and this movie really isn’t for you – Sadako is the creepy, long-haired female villain of the Ringu (aka The Ring) series and Kayako is the creepy, long-haired female villain of The Grudge (aka Ju-On: The Grudge) series.

For most of its running time, Sadako vs. Kayako follows two concurrent storylines. One involves two college girls and their professor as they desperately try to lift a curse bestowed upon them after they watch a cursed videotape.

The other follows a young woman who, with her parents, moves into a home next door to the house cursed by Kayako and that creepy kid who yowls like a cat in pain.

Eventually they join forces in trying to lift the curses by pitting the two evil gals against each other.

I’m a fan of the early entries of both series; I find them creepy and, at times genuinely terrifying. Sadako vs. Kayako is a long way from the heyday of directors Hideo Nakata and Takashi Shimizu, however.

Part of the reason is that creepy, long-haired female villains are REALLY played out by this point. The first Ju-On was released in 2000 and Ringu was released in 1998. But it’s not just the multiple entries in both series that has diminished this type of villain’ effectiveness; there have been creepy, long-haired female villains in many films since, as recently as last year’s Bed of the Dead.

That being said, there are still some creepy moments in Sadako vs. Kayako, but the novelty of these scary gals has long since worn off.

What we do have here is a fun ride, for the most part. The convolutions which lead to the climactic showdown are kind of clever (clever enough, anyway) and the girls (and little boy) can still knock ‘em dead: there’s little gore per se, but there are more than a few requisite grotesque kills, some of which are quite effective.

The whole enterprise has a somewhat amateurish feel, with uneven acting, some blah CGI (Sadako’s emergence from the television set is computer generated here – ugh) as well as some rewritten rules that may be a tad annoying to fans.

Still, it’s never dull, it has some good scares, and the raison d’etre – the final battle – is nothing to scream about, but it is entertaining. The goofy ending leaves a lot of questions, though, including: whose idea was it to tack on that super cheesy end credits tune? It stayed in my head for hours, dammit!

Sadako vs. Kayako is now playing on Shudder.


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