Sadako v Kavako merges the two main J-horror-franchises that became popular around the turn of the century. I’m familiar with both of them (even though I can’t claim to have seen all their prequels, sequels, sidequels, whatever) and hold their respective first parts, “Ringu” and “Ju-on”, in very high regard. Both of them scared the shit out of me when I watched them back in the day, offered fresh, unique and memorable ideas, and stayed with me for quite a while. This mashup of both franchises, however, which comes at least 10 years too late anyway, is a disappointingly lazy attempt to cash in on their popularity.
Actually, the idea itself was quite promising. And I like the way how they reintroduced the curse of the video tape, with it having become some sort of infamous urban legend, is talked about during a lecture, and then two female students stumble upon it by chance, finding it in an old VCR they bought to digitize a wedding video. Spelled out like that it may sound strained, but it actually worked quite well for me. I also liked the idea of what would happen if such a video would be found today, with the modern technology (like the internet) at our disposal. Too bad, however, that they hardly did anything with that idea, which could have been really interesting. Nevertheless, that was at least one of the very few new ideas they had to offer, so kudos for that. And even though it might have been hardly original, when they repeated the most iconic scares and moments, they still worked for me (surprisingly enough). Which is also the main reason why, despite all its shortcomings and frustrating elements, I can’t trash it completely.
Nevertheless, the bad unfortunately far outweighs the good. For example, I really could have done without all that possession-crap. I loved the idea that when you watch the video, 2 days later Sadako will come and kill you (or make you kill yourself), but that she’s some sort of demon that possesses you as soon as you’ve seen the video… nah. That whole excorcism-like scene was strange, like out of a completely different movie, and I also didn’t care for the possession expert (who should have been a little older in my book) and his young, blind female sidekick. And what was up with the weird way he moved his hand around all the time? That just looked incredibly silly. I also will never understand what got into them to decide to change the video so drastically. The old one was really creepy and very mysterious. The new one was just lame. I guess they mostly wanted to lose the well so that it would be a “new” image (at least as far as the movie itself is concerned) during the finale, but that alone is no reason to change the entire video. And especially not to substitute it with such a weak effort.
If you get the impression that I’m neglecting the “Ju-on”-part of this movie, it’s because that’s pretty much what the filmmakers did, too. “Sadako v Kayako” mostly revolves around Sadako’s cursed video tape, with everything about Kayako and the cursed house feeling like an afterthought (it wouldn’t surprise me if this project originally started off as a flat-out sequel to “Ringu”, and nothing else). Yes, there’s the bit with the school boys who enter the house, as well as the school girl who gets haunted by Kayako, but overall, the “Ju-on”-based story barely registered. It then all boils down to an incredibly disappointing showdown. One should think that if you plan on having two J-horror icons face off on-screen, you would also have some interesting and cool ways how they might fight each other up your sleeve. Nope. They’re struggling a little bit on the floor, Sadako uses her hair as a weapon, and that’s about it. And as if that wouldn’t already be bad enough, they then kinda merged into this crappily made CGI-monster. That was easily the worst part of the movie, and just an incredible letdown. Add to that a frustrating conclusion – the movie rather stops than ends – and you’ve got a totally disposable and unnecessary crossover that ultimately does wrong by both franchises which it tries to squeeze some easy bucks from.