Movie Review: SADAKO VS KAYAKO

The concept of two horror icons going head to head in a ferocious and deadly duel is something that I think most horror fans can enjoy, if not appreciate.  Sure, "Freddy vs. Jason" isn't necessarily a great movie, but who here can say they didn't enjoy seeing those two horror juggernauts battle it out on the screen for our enjoyment?  In all honesty, I would love to see more films within the genre that pit more iconic characters against each other.  The latest to do so involves two characters that we are all familiar with, whether you've seen them in their original Japanese films or their American remakes, Sadako (from "Ringu" or "The Ring") vs. Kayako ("Ju-on" or "The Grudge").

I'll be honest, I was really looking forward to seeing SADAKO VS KAYAKO.  As a huge fan of "The Ring" franchise, I wanted to see Sadako battle it out with Kayako to the blood end. Unfortunately, though a small battle ensued, it ended up feeling lackluster and disappointing. The film centers around a young woman, Natsumi, who discovers the infamous tape which houses Sadako. Discovering she only has two days to live, her and her friend try to break the curse by pitting Sadako against Kayako, an accursed spirit that possesses a haunted house where anyone who enters mysteriously disappears. 

This film had a lot going for it, but ultimately it ended up focusing on the characters instead of the evil entities.  Now, I'm not saying there is anything wrong with that, character development is always welcomed, but when you have a film such as this, fans are going to want to see more of a fight and less of the individual stories surrounding the characters.  When watching SADAKO VS KAYAKO, I expected to be on the edge of my seat and my attention laser focused on the story that was unfolding, and though there were a few instances where I was, the overall storyline left a lot to be desired.  I don't want to say that I was bored per say, but I found that my attention was focused on other things instead of the film.  I think had there been a smoother transition between why Sadako and Kayako had to battle it out, it would have made for a better viewing experience. 

Putting aside my issues with the story, there were some aspects to this film that I really loved. Something that I have come to appreciate with Asian horror films is their creative art of killing their characters.  SADAKO VS KAYAKO had some incredibly badass kill scenes and they didn't even need to rely on gore or blood to make them effective.  I especially liked one death that showed one of the character's neck being broken backwards.  Along with these unique deaths, the body movements of Sadako and Kayako were unsettling and sent a chill down my spine. I don't know how those actors contort their bodies the way they do, but those type of movements always give me the chills. 

Another aspect of this movie that surprised me was how much I enjoyed Kayako.  I have never been a fan of "The Grudge", and I have yet to see the Japanese version, so going into this film I was team Sadako.  However, as the movie came to a close, I found myself cheering on Kayako. Plus there was that creepy kid that killed people and made loud cat noises, which is something I don't want to ever encounter on my day to day life.  In the end, I found myself not really caring about Sadako anymore and becoming more mesmerized with the story that surrounded Kayako.  I guess if this film did anything, it made me want to check out "Ju-on" and give it the fair chance that it deserves. 

Overall, though I wasn't a huge fan of the movie as a whole, there was definitely some aspects that I really liked.  I think had the film tightened up their storyline a bit more it would have made a significant impact on the overall viewing experience.  Even though it faltered in regards to the story, I really enjoyed the creativity that was shown in the death sequences.  I would have loved to have seen more of a battle between Sadako and Kayaoko and I wish the film focused more heavily on how those two entities intertwined, but alas, we can't always get what we want. 

Devastatingly Yours,
Shannon M.

SADAKO VS KAYAKO is now streaming on AMC's horror service, Shudder