Sadako vs. Kayako, which is now streaming on Shudder, is a wild and wickedly entertaining tribute to two iconic Japanese horror villains.
Directed by Kôji Shiraishi, the film is built around a face-off between the central characters of the Ringu and Ju-On franchises (known as The Ring and The Grudge films in North America). The duel of the demons features its fair share of chilling moments, but draws on comic relief to make the film entirely unique.
Before Rings hits theaters this Friday (Feb. 3, 2017), we chatted with Kôji Shiraishi about the inspiration behind Sadako vs. Kayako, how he feels about other films that showcase battles between storied characters, and why humor plays a role in his feature. ~Matthew Pariselli
What is it about the stories behind Ringu and Ju-On that interests you? Why were you compelled to make a film that pitted the demons against each other?
I felt it would be a great opportunity — and entertaining to see — two great iconic demons of Japanese horror pitted against each other. I thought it would very interesting to do something with these major franchises that is different from the current scene of J-Horror. When I started directing the film, I wanted to make the feature as interesting as possible but still with a festival feel.
Do you like films that depict showdowns between iconic characters, such as Alien vs. Predator, Freddy vs. Jason, etc.? Were you inspired by any film while making Sadako vs. Kayako?
Yes, Alien vs. Predator, but with Freddy vs. Jason, the film is known for being well-made and funny, but on the other hand it was very helpful as a guide for me. Especially in the scenes where humans do not intervene, since the fight between Freddy and Jason felt like professional wrestling that can be safely enjoyed. The director makes the audience feel that the possibility of danger can never be felt by humans. The premise of my film, which does not take away from horror, always involves a human viewpoint and other people’s affairs.
The Ringu and Ju-On films are a bit different than their North American franchises. Was it important to you while making Sadako vs. Kayako to appeal to both Japanese and North American audiences?
Although I was not conscious of the audiences in North America, I made the film with the intention of entertaining the Japanese audience by exploring the American style of horror.
You employ a particular brand of humor in the film. Why did you decide to add comic relief?
Although it does have humor, the film is not a comedy. It has only been included in places where it was needed for comic relief. Excellent horror films have elements of humor. I have adopted this idea because I like that style. Scary scenes are not always frightening if an element of humour is not always included to help you empathize with the character’s predicament. Humor helps make characters familiar, and therefore viewers don’t want those characters to fall into bad situations.
Which evil entity do you prefer, Sadako or Kayako?
I love them both equally.
What are you currently working on?
I am currently finishing an original animated thriller called Incompetent Criminal, which is set to release in Japan in 2018. Besides that, there are ongoing projects I am working on that will involve scenes of extreme violence as well as new elements.