REVIEW CONTAINS SLIGHT SPOILERS.
In the proud tradition of Frankenstein vs. the Wolfman and Freddy vs. Jason, director Koji Shiraishi (The Curse) brings us the J-horror beatdown, Sadako vs. Kayako. As is the case with versus films in the horror genre, the focus isn’t on the fight but on the two mythologies crossing over. Sadako vs. Kayako does a better job than most of bring these two worlds together by establishing the curses of Ringu and Ju-on being seen as on-line urban legends by the general public. Unfortunately two school girls, Yuri and Natsumi, inadvertently watch Sadako’s cursed VHS tape. The two desperately seek help, and end up in the care of a powerful psychic who decides to break the curse by playing the VHS in the cursed house, thus forcing Sadako to go after Kayako and her infant son Toshio.
Sadako vs. Kayako is a lot better than it has any right to be. Originally conceived as an April Fools Day joke in 2015, it was revealed in production later that year. When I finished the film I wasn’t quite sure what I thought it. It had some cool moments but I felt underwhelmed. Looking back on the entire experience I realize I liked it more than I originally thought. Sadako vs. Kayako hits all the right beats for fans of both series and manages a few shocking sequences to make it stand out as a treat for J-horror fans. Director Shiraishi shows care in crafting the film so that Sadako vs. Kayako gives the respect to the source material of both franchises, while still also being silly in places. Thankfully, it also brings two mythologies come together in a way that doesn’t seem forced.
The only problem I had with the Sadako vs. Kayako is the 11th hour entry of the psychic Keizo Tokiwa. He seems to have come out of his own film series (which doesn’t exist), with his gimmicky hand gestures that have the power to bind evil spirits. There is no backstory or explanation for him or the little blind girl that accompanies him. Sadako vs. Kayako doesn’t need these two characters and would have played better without them. As far as the titular fight itself, it’s as good as it could be, all things considered. It manages to keep all three of the vengeful wraiths within their element without being too silly while also pulling off a nasty surprise for the ending. It will be interesting to see if Sadako vs. Kayako is seen as canonical should the either series move forward (they will).
Sadako vs. Kayako made it’s American debut on the streaming service Shudder this past January. If you like horror movies, Shudder is dirt cheap and it’s selection is tight for hardcore horror fans and comes highly recommended by me.