By Euan McGuffie
This Friday Feud is a squaring-up of 2 shadowy and confusing figures whose very appearance sent a chill up a few spines. In the first corner and looking like that photograph that made Brand reassess his relationship with Perry (stacked v nocturnal deterioration) Sadako Yamamura is the sinister apparition in Hideo Nakata’s 1998 Japanese horror ‘Ring’ (or Ringu). In the opposite corner we have Scandinavian fable The Moomins’ fuzzy felt embodiment of scariness, The Groke. Waking up next to either is not a pleasant thought but who is the worsest? Let’s get ready to rumble……
Round 1 – She’s a wrong ‘un
Sadako’s background is pretty complicated. Sequels and prequels which are a bit too attention-needy for my little brain, especially on a Friday, involving a variety of myths and psychic powers with Japanese names that make as about as much sense as a Wagamama menu without the handy descriptions and pictures. There’s even some stuff where Sadako’s real father is some sort of mythical marine beastie and that she is the evil one of a set of previously conjoined twins. There is always an evil one after all. Anyhow it’s safe to say that unruly psychic powers do not a happy childhood make.
Sadako inherited these from her mother Shizuko who was labeled a fraud after an unsuccessful public demo of her abilities. She commits suicide, blamed for the murder of the reporter who debunked her, whereas it was Sadako who had used her weird power to effectively stop the press. This understandably puts the frighteners up Sadako’s step-father who thought it best to bludgeon her with an axe and chuck her body down a well, just to be on the safe side. Sadako’s vengeful ghost has been trying to settle the score ever since, using her bizarre abilities to produce the distorted and disturbing images on the cursed video tape which renders its viewers dead 7 days after watching it. Still plenty of time to return it to Azad in the meantime though.
The Groke doesn’t have such a colourful background and is largely believed to be the either the personification of the onset of the Scandinavian winter and/or a walking monument to isolation and loneliness. A bit of both I reckon. The Groke, although frightening, is not a malicious entity, despite rumors of being partial to munching on the odd Moomin or two. A recluse that made old Obi Wan – ‘I wonder if she means old Ben Obi Wan’ – Kenobi seem as prevalent as the Go Compare man, The Groke craved warmth and friendship but was so inept at connecting with others that the loneliness and fear were exacerbated. Light-hearted stuff for a fuzzy felt cartoon.
Round 1 to Sadako on account of her unstable up-bringing. (1-0)
Round 2 – The chill factor
I’d rate the sequence where Reiko’s TV flickers to life of its own accord; Sadako emerges from the well; lurching towards the viewer and clambering through the screen into the room as one of the scariest moments in film. Poor Reiko was so petrified he couldn’t even switch over to Ceefax. Japanese horrors have the chill factor down to a tee; the originals are far better than the remakes (Ju-On, Dark Water, etc).
The Groke was chillier than Pingu’s fridge, freezing the ground over which she walked / glided, killing the grass and plants. She breathed winter, freezing butterflies mid-flight in the normally warm Moomin Valley air. She could probably fart a tundra. All the trolls were afraid of her, as were many viewers, given that this was a cartoon for kids. Don’t let her touch anything you can’t stand to lose. Moominpappa wishes he’d never got to third base.
Tie for this one, there’s a fine line between death & the loss of certain appendages. (2-1)
Round 3 – A sight for sore eyes
You wouldn’t give Sadako a second glance if you saw her shuffling to one of The Cure’s more self-indulgent numbers, shrouded in dry ice at John’s Indie Disco. Face hidden beneath that lank mop, it wasn’t exactly an advert for Timotei. Mind you, if that cursed tape was anything to go by its no wonder she looked an 808 what with that mirror jumping around all the time. Camera 1, camera 2, camera 1, camera 2….. Oh you’ve got green eyes, oh you’ve got blue eyes, oh you’ve got grey eyes; jeepers creepers where’d she get those peepers? Your worst hangover doesn’t come close; she must’ve been on the dirty tequilas.
If all of The Levellers had a bad hair day at the same time it still wouldn’t come close to The Groke. For someone who craves companionship she really doesn’t endear herself to others. And her eyes can only be described as ‘deadlights’ (a la Stephen King’s ‘It’), seemingly devoid of humanity they could probably see right through you, like most women. I can’t remember if this cartoon was on before or after John Craven’s Newsround, anyone?
Round 3 to The Groke. I would probably do Sadako. I draw the line at The Groke. (2-2)
Round 4 – she likes to move
Causing dollar signs to flash in the eyes of chiropractors everywhere, Sadako’s spine popping contortions make that cinema seat feel like the best La-Z-boy ever. And that moment when she comes through the screen was so well done to this day I don’t leave my TV on unattended at night. Well, actually I haven’t done that since watching Poltergeist. And I don’t like a bundled up duvet after watching Audition. That was one messed up film.
In another tea-time short cartoon Evil Edna would leap into the frame, antenna all a-quiver, causing Arthur the caterpillar to soil his linen. You could see The Groke approaching though, as she glided down the hillside in that shimmering (stop-frame animation) way. Still Thingumy and Bob would still wait until she was right on top of them before diving behind Moomintroll’s man-bag for shelter.
Round 4 to Sadako. That looks painful. But I like it. (3-2)
Round 5 – whats the worst that can happen?
Well, Sadako could kill you. And you’d be dead. She’d leave you with the kind of vinegar-strokes expression that would prove a challenge for any undertaker. Though if you were smart you’d realize you had 7 days in which to copy the video nasty and lend it to a friend, transferring the curse. Reminds me of ‘Night of the Demon’, that marvelous B&W chiller from 1957 in which a written curse is passed on thorough back-stabbing and deception, impending demonic doom passed on to a ‘friend’. Then again, by knowingly condemning another to a grizzly demise wouldn’t you be therefore condemning you own soul? And so the circle, or ring, continues indefinitely. No! There is no escaping here…..
This is where The Groke pales. The Moomins used to think she’d eat them for breakfast, on top of her tendency of freezing the balls off a brass monkey. But none of this happens to Moomintroll or his pals, and all their fuzzy felt balls are intact; probably just a rumor concocted by Moominpappa to hide what really happened. A true loner, she probably never ate a Moomin in her life. Probably preferred Frosties. And Snowballs. Foxy’s Glacier Mints too. That’s plenty.
Round 5 to Sadako since she will get you in the end, no matter what you do. (4-2)
Aaaaaand the winner is: Sadako
Coming soon, to a TV near you. Imagine the potential nowadays for DVDs and downloads. That’s not all that’s changed though – in the days of wall-mounted flat screen TVs a vengeful ghost suddenly doesn’t seem quite as terrifying when it takes a swan dive in front of the hearth.
My TV is old and bulky though, and at a convenient height……errmm, to paraphrase that 80’s summer holiday kids’ show, why don’t I just switch off my television set and go and do something less boring Instead?
I’m not scared, right?
You can follow Euan on Twitter @CptPopTrance as he discusses Alloa Athletic, Music and the pointlessness of humanity…..also Cider.