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Film review: Sadako vs Kayako – J-horror ghouls converge in awkward comedy

Pairing Sadako from Hideo Nakata’s Ring and Kayako from Takashi Shimizu’s Ju-On produces a floundering horror-comedy that’s a far cry from its eerie predecessors

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 October, 2016, 12:16pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 October, 2016, 12:16pm

2/5 stars

King Kong vs Godzilla. Freddy vs Jason. Cinema loves staging high-stakes bouts between its most iconic characters for our entertainment. Just this year, Batman and Superman were pitted against one another for reasons unclear even to them. So the notion of J-horror prom queens Sadako and Kayako locking braids seems a no-brainer.

Hideo Nakata’s Ring and Takashi Shimizu’s Ju-On emerged in the death throes of the last millennium to spearhead a global craze for Asian horror, personified by these lank-haired tormentors. Achieving suffocating chills through stripped-down atmospherics and contorted physical performances, both films were huge hits, spawning numerous sequels and international remakes.

As years went on, the demands of the marketplace saw the series veer away from low-fi aesthetics, in favour of less-effective CGI spooks and splattery deaths. Sadly for fans, Sadako vs Kayako director Koji Shiraishi barely fulfils the obligations of his film’s title, delivering an awkward horror-comedy that’s a far cry from its eerie predecessors.

In the new film, Sadako and Kayako are charted on their collision course when an overzealous spiritual medium (Masanobu Ando) advises two cursed teens (Mizuki Yamamoto and Tina Tamashiro) to “double curse” themselves – that is to watch Sadako’s videotape while in Kayako’s haunted house – in the hope that the malevolent waifs turn on each other.

It’s a fun idea, but Shiraishi leaves himself no time to explore its possibilities. The director wastes the entire running time on the buildup, only for the titular skirmish to be over almost as soon as it has begun. To be fair, he does, of course, leave room to tee up yet another sequel in this terminally cannibalised franchise.

Sadako vs Kayako opens on October 6

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