Kayako Saeki is a fictional character from the Ju-on series of Japanese-horror films and The Grudge trilogy of American remakes. In all of the films, except for the third, she is played by actress Takako Fuji. In The Grudge 3, Kayako is played by Aiko Horiuchi, Fuji having turned down the role. In the 2020 American reboot of The Grudge she is portrayed by Junko Bailey.

She was created by director Takashi Shimizu. She represents a popular villain in Japanese culture, the vengeful ghost (Onryō). She is typically characterized by long dark hair covering her face, twisted movements with crunching neckbones and a haunting croaking sound from her mouth. She first appeared in Shimizu's short film Katasumi and spends the whole Ju-On series haunting a house in Nerima, Japan. She is one of the fulfillers of the Ju-On curse, which states that when someone dies in a state of intense rage, those feelings remain at the death site and kill whoever it touches.

She was seen more recently in The Grudge 2 and returned in The Grudge 3, which was released direct-to-DVD in May 2009. She has proven to be a very popular character in horror cinema.

History Edit

Kayako's origin story is outlined in The Grudge 2. Kayako spends her childhood with her mother, an Itako (Japanese exorcist) who uses her daughter to "eat" the evil spirits she drives away from her patients. This marks the child for the rest of her life, making her a target for gossip and cruelty. Kayako did seem to have a father-figure in her life. When she attends university, she meets Shunsuke Kobayashi (Peter Kirk in The Grudge), with whom she falls deeply in love. Years later, Kayako marries Takeo Saeki, the only person who understands and cares for her, and together, they have a son named Toshio. By now, Kobayashi is Toshio's school teacher, and she falls in love with him again. She writes of her feelings for him in the journal she kept all her life.

One day, Takeo finds and reads her diary. He becomes obsessed with the idea that Kayako is cheating on him with his son's teacher - or worse, Toshio could not be his son, but Kobayashi's. When she gets home that day, he violently attacks her upstairs, pushing her against the wall. Toshio is in his bedroom drawing and hears the noise and, coming outside, watches the violence which is occurring below through the banisters. Kayako tries to run away while Takeo chases her, but he pushes her down. She sprains her ankle, stumbles and falls, and has to go down their house stairs by crawling. After much effort she makes it to the front door, only to find Takeo was slowly walking behind her, watching her in pain. He then snaps her neck to a 90 degree angle and crushes her throat, takes her to their bedroom and puts her in a trash bag. Kayako is still alive, but paralyzed, capable only of her characteristic croaking noise. Takeo stares at her just sitting in a trash bag in the bedroom, then stabs her multiple times. Then, he puts her body in the far corner of the attic, through an attic door in the ceiling of their bedroom closet. After that, Takeo kills Toshio (a witness to the murder) by drowning him in the bathtub, before also drowning his pet cat, Mar, in the same bathtub. He then runs to Kobayashi's house, killing Manami Kobayashi, Kobayashi's pregnant wife, and putting her fetus in a sack. As he flies into a fit of rage on the street, Kayako appears as an Onryō coming out from the garbage dumped nearby, and kills Takeo. Some time later, Kayako's body is found in the attic; Takeo's on the nearby street (his cause of death unknown to the police, they assume he committed suicide) and Toshio's in a closet.

Since that day, the ghosts of Kayako, Toshio and Takeo kill everyone who steps into the Saeki House (and anywhere the curse is transmitted). The cat, Mar, usually appears to forewarn any intruders of their impending doom. The curse is meant to repeat itself as an unending cycle, so every film features Kayako crawling down the stairs emitting her famous death rattle, cracking her neck around and covered with blood. Although she is usually heard emitting a croaking sound, Kayako is occasionally heard making a strange, eerie moaning instead - she is even heard speaking to Toshio (off-screen) after her death, albeit briefly, during the first Ju-on movie (and even more briefly during The Grudge, when she appears on the security monitor).

In all portrayals, no human ever attempts to fight back against Kayako physically, except for Jake Kimble who, very briefly, attempts to resist Kayako. The young boy attempts to get out of Kayako's grasp right before she breaks every bone in his body in The Grudge 3. Besides him all are always paralyzed by fear when she arrives. The only exception to those who fear Kayako was Karen Davis, who was willing to accept her death quietly in The Grudge.

Differences between versionsEdit

Up until The Grudge 2, in which it was explained, her past and childhood were unknown according to the Japanese films.

Her death is almost equal in both story lines, with the exception of the use of the utility knife to slash her, which only appears in Ju-on due to American violence ratings. The whole scene of her crawling down the stairs, having her neck broken and being put in the attic are shown in the director's cut of The Grudge, and parts of it are shown in the theatrical version.

In the Ju-on films, Kayako's death is similar to the film versions. However, in the novel, she is first beaten and slashed by Takeo, before he ties her to the bedpost while continuing to torture her, and even rapes her in the process, until she eventually dies.

In Ju-on, Kobayashi is claimed by Kayako during his visit to the house. As he watches her crawl down the stairs he backs up to the door which opens from behind him. She stands there, says his name, then comes down and gives him a kiss of death. When the angle changes Kayako is gone, Kobayashi is sitting there dead, and Toshio is still standing facing forward with a phone in his hand and his mouth open. In The Grudge, Peter kills himself by throwing himself over his balcony in front of his wife.

Takeo Saeki is found dead by hanging in The Grudge, similar to a scene of the series' second respective films, where Kayako appears in the ceiling of a room and, with her hair, strangles and hangs a couple. In the Japanese version, he is killed by Kayako in a street at night, after killing Kobayashi's wife and unborn child. In the novel, he is killed when Kayako's ghost stabs him through the back with a knife.

In the Ju-on films, Kayako is almost covered head to toe in blood, most notably in Ju-on: The Grudge 2, and she also has curly, broad hair in Ju-On: The Grudge. But in Ju-On: The Grudge 2, she has long straight hair including in the American Grudge 1, 2, and 3. However, in the more recent vignettes of The Grudge, she is either pale blue-toned white or completely pure white (except for her famous stairs scene at the end of The Grudge, in which she is covered in blood). After the house is burned by Karen Davis in The Grudge, Kayako seems to be permanently clean; this is perhaps to signify her change of character, because in Ju-on, she is somewhat weaker than she is in The Grudge. As in Ju-on, she constantly crawls downstairs and rarely attacks people as viciously as she does in The Grudge. In The Grudge, she seems to be a much stronger, much more evil, and more powerful Onryo because, as seen in The Grudge 3, she can kill someone by ripping their eyes out and tearing off their jaw. In fact, in the last two installments of The Grudge, she is never seen covered in blood at all (although in The Grudge 3, Jake mentions to Dr. Sullivan that he saw her covered in blood).

In The Grudge 3, Kayako has a younger sister named Naoko Kawamata. It is not revealed how close they were as sisters, and their mother seems to have only performed her exorcisms on Kayako. Naoko used to be terrified of her mother, but she seemed to learn how to become an Itako and she took her mother's equipment after she went into hiding. Naoko is aware of Kayako's death and knows she is an Onryo. Kayako appears to send Naoko news clippings of her victims' deaths, to show her what she has become. When Naoko sees a clipping about young Jake's death, she decides to try to stop Kayako forever. When inside the apartment, Kayako frequently watches Naoko, but never tries to attack her. This is most likely because she still cares about Naoko, suggesting that Kayako and Naoko had a strong sisterly bond. Kayako does not kill Naoko, but Takeo does, while possessing Max. Killed in rage when Takeo (Max) stabbed her through the back of her neck, Naoko was resurrected as a new Onryo, because she died just as painfully as her sister did. To save her sister's life, 8-year-old Rose drank Kayako's blood (which Naoko had obtained), containing Kayako inside her body. This proves that Kayako's curse is over, and Naoko's curse has taken its place.

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