It seems the 90s are back with a vengeance, what with The Blair Witch Project sequel shaking its way into theaters, and two of the scariest J-horror villains coming together in Sadako vs. Kayako, which makes its North American debut at TIFF. We caught up with the actresses embodying those ghostly roles at the press junket, and they revealed a lot about the new movie… even how it ends! (Skip the last two paragraphs, if you don’t want to be in the know just yet.)
The plot of the new movie melds the tropes of the two previous franchises: After viewing a legendary cursed videotape she found inside a VCR purchased at a pawn shop, Natsumi (Aimi Satsukawa) discovers she has only two days before she will be killed by the demonic entity known as Sadako (from The Ring). The only way to break the curse is to pit the demon Sadako against Kayako (from The Grudge). Kayako is an angry ghost who haunts a house where everyone who enters disappears. Natsumi’s friend Yuri (Mizuki Yamamoto) tries to help, and finds herself drawn into a horrible web of evil.
Elly Nanami (Sadako) says she loves how the project all came together. “The franchises are released by two different studios, but they got together and decided to do one movie. They wanted it to be totally different and it is such a big project. So I was looking forward to being a part of it before it even started shooting – and now, the movie is ready to be released here (in the U.S.) and it’s a real opportunity for those who love Kayako to get to know Sadako and vice versa. I had no idea how the story would develop, and how two different icons would fight… and, how was it going to end? I didn’t know, but I really enjoyed being a part of it.”
Runa Endo (Kayako) adds, “These two franchises are very famous in Japan, and they have released other versions and sequels over the years, but I think that this movie is finally the one that people expected. I was scared of possibly disappointed Kayako fans but, they love the movie. It’s really great. I had pressure, because of all the fans and so there was pressure, but now I am very happy to be a part of this film history.”
Early reviews do indeed say Sadako vs. Kayako is one of the more satisfying attempts to revive old, beloved films, franchises and characters. Funnily enough, the whole idea for this started as a joke. But when fans responded with overwhelming enthusiasm, the studios realized they might just have a hit. While there is a self-awareness written into the plot – there is a nerdy university lecture about vengeful female ghosts in Japan, complete with a PowerPoint presentation on cursed videotapes and haunted houses – the film isn’t all winks and nods. Eventually, the scares are taken seriously and there are some serious scares. And there’s even an awesome cameo by Battle Royale’s Masanobu Ando as an exorcist.
Runa says she loves the ending best of all. “At the end, I think people are expecting there will be one winner, but actually the two icons merge. So now they will get even more powerful. As for Yuri, the student, we know that she is a part of the merged ghouls. So, the audiences can expect to see the next movie as a part of the franchises. I would like to be a part of it.”
Elly agrees that the ending is a great surprise. “In terms of the last scene, that was an unexpected result. Some people think they will friends with each other or they will have a collaboration, or they will disappear. But actually, they got merged. Many people didn’t expect that kind of ending! For me, I think a new movie will give lots of people ideas to explore different ways the villains can go. I really have a great respect for the director of the movie, Koji Shiraishi, for being so brave to end it like that.”
Sadako vs. Kayako Release Details:
Shudder, the premium horror streaming service backed by AMC Networks, has picked up all North American rights to Sadako vs. Kayako, the crossover of the massive Japanese horror film franchises Ring (remade in the United States as The Ring) and Ju-on (known as The Grudge in the U.S.). The film is an epic showdown featuring the two iconic demons fighting each other in the ultimate battle of possession.