Cute actresses can't save this "versus" attempt from its own utter disappointment
As the "versus" theme is getting popular in Hollywood this year, Japan released their very own one after the likes of Batman v Superman and Civil War (Team Captain America vs. Team Iron Man) but instead of the superhero genre, they went for horror, clashing two of their most successful franchises in the genre — Ringu (The Ring) and Ju-On (also known as The Grudge in the US). There is silly fun in "versus" horror flicks in the past, namely, Alien vs. Predator (2004), Freddy vs. Jason (2003) and Monster Brawl (2011). Unfortunately for Sadako vs. Kayako, it's just silly with a bit of superficial scares by recycling their cliches. What a disappointment coming from Koji Shiraishi, a director who did a gruesome film such as Grotesque (2009), and Kadokawa Daiei, a studio that does old-skool monster flicks (Gamera) and... hentai.
The two classics are extremely scary in their own unique ways — Ringu's more on the creepy mystery and plot device whereas Ju-On's terrifying with its haunted house formula. Hence it makes a lot of sense to focus on Ringu's plot device and just have Ju-On's house somewhere in the same universe. The story mainly focuses on Yuri Kurahashi (Mizuki Yamamoto) and Natsumi Ueno (Aimi Satsukawa) who get the Sadako's cursed video tape by complete coincidence. I don't mean that lightly. Immediately after a lesson in class about ghosts and the tape itself, the girls go buy an old second hand video tape player that has the cursed cassette inside. On the other side of the narrative, there's a schoolgirl named Suzuka Takagi (Tina Tamashiro) who happens to be compelled into entering the house haunted by Kayako and Toshio (and their cat). Yes, it's as straightforward as it sounds. Characters with no depth headed right into the curses.
And there are these two anime-ish characters, Keizo Tokiwa (Masanobu Ando) and Tamao (Mai Kikuchi), who have strong psychic powers that come to their rescue and plans to force Sadako and Kayako to battle over their target victims. Why are Keizo and Tamao so strong? No idea. Where do they come from and why is Tamao like Daredevil? Beats me. Why do they think Sadako and Kayako would cancel each other's curses out if they fought each other? The film simply doesn't bother explaining much. While there is a need for story development and exposition to build up to the fight between the two classic, the way it's done here is just too rushed and overly coincidental with little substance. The gimmick fight itself is ultimately unjustified and stupid. I can't even blame the poor acting performances as the characters are either too dumb or corny, making really questionable decisions. It's like the only reasons why we should care about the protagonists are their looks and innocence. Three "white virgins", or in this case, three cute Japanese girls, are not better than one engaging, relatable character.
The titular antagonists — Sadako Yamamura (Elly Nanami) and Kayako Saeki (Runa Endo) — are relatively to faithful to the original source as the writers of this film are Koji Suzuki and Takashi Shimizu themselves, the creators of Ringu and Ju-On respectively but the film does not do them justice. It's like putting summary versions of both stories and just cramming them together into one film. It feels like lazy writing more than paying homage to their own work. The only thing that this film did well is the spooky atmosphere with the camerawork and wind sound effects with minimal music. The makeup and visual effects look unconvincing compared to the original adaptations, making it seem like cosplays more than they're from an actual film production.
The "action" of the actual fight only happens for like a few minutes in the final act (seemingly way shorter than the fights in any of the mentioned "versus" films) before the frustratingly abrupt ending. Sadako drags Toshio into the TV and force-feeds Kayako with her hair before Kayako comes back with a death-hug, and then they kiss and become one. Just kidding, but it's almost as ridiculously funny as that and it's probably not even intentional. The film lacks of the creativity for a satisfyingly epic battle between these two iconic entities, and it's not even bold enough to have a winner. It also fails to find the right blend of serious horror and off-beat humour. I wasn't expecting anything intelligent or groundbreaking from the film, but come on, at least entertain me.
What I would've named the film: "Ringu feat. Ju-On: The Merger"
Malaysian censorship: Not sure if anything was censored. There weren't any awkward jumps. Sadly this is probably how mild the film is.
Second opinion: (Sorry, none this time. Pretty sure I'll be the only one in my circle who'd watch this.)
Rating: 1.5 / 5
Based on: "The Ring" trilogy by Koji Suzuki and "Ju-On" by Takashi Shimizu
Country / Language: Japan / Japanese
Running Time: 99 minutes
Director: Koji Shiraishi
Writers: Koji Suzuki, Takashi Shimizu
Cast: Mizuki Yamamoto, Tina Tamashiro, Masanobu Ando, Masahiro Komoto, Aimi Satsukawa, Mai Kikuchi
Malaysia Release Date: 18 August 2016
Local Distributor: TGV Pictures
Production: Kadokawa Daiei
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