Akane is a high school teacher who hears a rumor from her students that there is actual footage on the Internet of someone’s suicide. The footage is said to drive anyone who sees it to also commit suicide. Akane does not believe the rumor at first, but when one of her female students dies after viewing the footage, she and her boyfriend Takanori are fatefully drawn into the horror that has been created by the man who appears in the suicide footage, Kashiwada. Kashiwada’s intention is to create chaos in the world by bringing back Sadako and the power of her curse. Now Akane has to fight against Sadako and Kashiwada to save the lives of herself and Takanori.
The title is a dead giveaway. Ask anyone to describe their abiding memory of Hideo Nakata’s undisputed classic Ring—or indeed the American remake—and they’ll more than likely come back to the image of Sadako crawling out of the television screen, towards her prey, towards the audience. Never has the idea of an actor crossing the proscenium been more terrifying. So to even the most cynical detractor of this latest wave of 3D films, it’s easy to see how the Ring franchise might lend itself to the new technology.
But with a franchise that’s so close to people’s hearts, you’ve got to tread carefully. Ring is to J-Horror what Akira is to anime, or what Gojira is to kaiju films. Sadako 3D plays it safe with a title that sets it ever-so-slightly apart from the original series, but otherwise makes its intentions clear from the outset. The first shot of a girl in a nightdress being thrown down a well instantly recalls the Ring series to anyone broadly familiar with it.
Unfortunately the gimmicky effects and bad acting make their presence felt very swiftly, and only a few minutes into the film it’s hard not to yearn for the understated creepiness of the original. While the effects may well look spectacular in 3D—for the record, I strongly suspect that they don’t—on a regular screen and without the aid of funny glasses, they look shoddy and downright ridiculous. Every twenty minutes or so the foreground keeps getting cluttered up with shards of glass or butterflies, moving across the screen in slow motion like some kind of dreadful nineties screen saver.
In the film’s favour, the female lead (Satomi Ishihara) is at least charismatic enough to keep you watching through the interminable scenes of poorly-written dialogue. This is a major problem; the script is devoid of subtlety to the point of being infantile. The dialogue careers veers between the merely bad (when the concept of ‘flaming’ is explained for the viewer’s benefit) and the nonsensical. Nowhere is this worse than with the bumbling cops, who seem to function as a duo of hapless exposition robots, or to fill up screentime when the editor has run out of slow motion footage of writhing hair (more of this later).
Even when this film falls back on recycling the plot of the original, it simply doesn’t work. You couldn’t care less that the heroine’s boyfriend has watched the cursed video, because he’s an extraordinarily dull character. Sadako is rendered about as frightening as Shirley Temple, now that her main weapon is… her long hair. I wish I was kidding. She now drags her prey into the screen, using her hair as extending, super-strong tentacles, like some kind of nightdress-wearing Doctor Octopus. Half of the time, Sadako 3D looks more like a stoner’s attempt at a shampoo ad than a horror film.
Describing the climax can hardly be called a spoiler in this case, so here goes. Towards the end, Sadako turns into a horde of vampire grasshopper monsters, for some reason. A little later, she turns into a monster composed entirely of hair, similar to the one Bugs Bunny used to occasionally antagonise in the forties. The manner in which Sadako is finally defeated is one of the stupidest things I’ve ever seen. The happy ending utterly neuters the film and torpedoes the theme of self-sacrifice that helped make the original so compelling.
Like Diary of the Dead, this is simply a pointless update of something already timeless and perfect. Perhaps the makers of this film thought they had something fresh to say on the matter, but sadly they were very much mistaken. I can only imagine how incomprehensible this film must be to someone who has never seen any of the preceding entries in the series. It’s essentially a cheap cash-in, but on a positive note, it has made me appreciate the original Ring all the more. Redundant sequels like this one rarely do lasting damage to the reputation of the original film. Remember Omen IV: The Awakening? No, of course you don’t.
Sadako 3D is now available on Bluray from Well Go USA
Sadako 3D (2012)