Review: Shudder Debuts Exclusive Sadako Vs. Kayako

Posted on Thursday, January 26, 2017 by

sadako vs. kayako review
Images courtesy of Shudder.
Horror fans everywhere were delighted with the idea of Sadako Vs. Kayako, the Freddy Vs. Jason of J-horror. Director Koji Shiraishi (Carved, Grotesque) wrote and directed the 2016 film, which had its North American release today on Shudder. Sadako Vs. Kayako had a wild marketing campaign, first teased as an April Fools joke, followed by a Twitter poll, several viral videos, a joke Instagram account, and several specialty items, including a series of my beloved Fuchikore figures.

Sadako was born through the 1998 film Ring (Ringu, directed by Hideo Nakata) and its franchise which first followed a reporter trying to explain the deaths of several teenagers who viewed a cursed videotape. The tape leads her to the murder of a young girl named Sadako, who drowned in a well after being pushed in by her father. Those who view the tape receive a phone call from Sadako and she kills them exactly a week later. Ring inspired many Japanese horror films in the supernatural genre, including Ju-On (Ju-On: The Grudge, directed by Takashi Shimizu). The Ju-On franchise revolves around a house cursed by the ghosts of Kayako and her son, Toshio who were brutally murdered by Kayako's husband, Takeo. Everyone who enters the house is killed by the curse. These now cult-classic films inspired a new wave of genre films in the US, with both of them being remade in the early 2000s.

sadako vs. kayako review
Sadako Vs. Kayako follows two separate storylines. Natsumi and Yuri watch Sadako's cursed videotape and, with the help of an urban legend obsessed professor and a couple of mediums, try everything to escape her. Meanwhile, Suzuka moves into a house near the Ju-On home and after seeing strange things and investigating the disappearance of several children, falls under Kayako's curse. Their last chance for survival is to pit the two villains against each other in a final face off.

sadako vs. kayako review

Ring and Ju-On were both excellently paced films and Sadako Vs. Kayako is no different. It's a slow burn with enough early action to keep modern horror viewers interested. Like many of its J-horror predecessors, much of the suspense is left to the viewers' imagination. The film is definitely written for fans, though, and couldn't exist as a standalone film if you haven't seen Ju-On. Lucky for you, it's on Shudder so you can check it out before viewing Sadako Vs. Kayako. 

Sadako Vs. Kayako explores Ring's theme of expanding technology, but like I hoped entering this film, uses technology in a new way to spread Sadako's curse. It sticks to the previous films' energy but revitalizes them with unexpected, likable characters. There are a few subtle changes to the franchises' mythology, but overall stays true to their original stories.

sadako vs. kayako review

New and old fans will be pleased with Sadako Vs. Kayako. Although the film has a great sense of humor, Sadako Vs. Kayako is damn scary and keeps everything we love from its franchises. The finale is everything you'll want from a Sadako and Kayako face off, with Toshio in tow. Sadako Vs. Kayako is the supernatural treat the US needed from Japan this year and is absolutely worth viewing


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