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Review: Sadako vs. Kayako

Earlier this week–Wednesday, I think–I somewhat impulsively pre-ordered tickets for tonight’s midnight screening of Sadako vs. Kayako (or The Ghost from The Ring vs. The Ghost from The Grudge) at IFC. It was a huge commitment to make considering the hours I work, but what can I say? It sounded like the exact sort of cinematic oddity that’s right up my alley. 

I wouldn’t call myself a huge J-Horror enthusiast, but I do enjoy how Japanese storytellers tend to approach ghosts; generally speaking (there are always exceptions), they’re more subtle and psychological than their western counterparts. Instead of flesh-eating ghouls, more creative writers might conjure up, for example, an emaciated specter that stands in your bathtub and passively-aggressively glares at you while you brush your teeth, wearing away at your sanity with the implied threat that he might actually do something until you finally commit suicide to escape the mind-numbing madness.

From the moment the blood-soaked title card splashed across the screen, I knew Sadako vs. Kayako wouldn’t be that kind of movie. Which is fine: it more than makes up for it by being as completely, unapologetically bonkers as you’d expect a film about two malevolent spirits duking it out to see who gets to violently murder Japanese schoolgirls to be. The story reaches the zenith of its zaniness with the arrival of Keizo–a slovenly paranormal investigator who has absolutely no patience for all the paranormal nonsense that surrounds him–and his cynical, blind, clairvoyant kid sidekick. They’re the ones who cook up the audacious plan to pit the two curses–pardon me, I mean “subconscious memetic viruses”–against each other, and their world-weary straight-shooting alleviates both the oppressive mood as our helpless heroines contemplate their inevitable doom… and the mild boredom that sets in as the narrative slowly limps from death to gruesome death.

I wish the pair’s light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek self-awareness had rescued the film from its depressingly downbeat conclusion, but I suppose that’s just the nature of the genre. Overall, if you’re a fan of thrills, chills, and bloody kills, Sadako vs. Kayako certainly hits the spot.

[Originally written January 29, 2017.]

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