Sadako 3D


Jun 2, 2013

Sadako 3D (2012)
Director: Tsutomu Hanabusa
Writers: Satomi Ishihara, Koji Suzuki, and Tsutomu Takahashi
Starring: Satomi Ishihara, Koji Seto, Yusuke Yamamoto, and Ai Hashimoto

The Plot: Sadako 3D is a continuation of the original Ringu series and takes place thirteen years after the events of the first film. Our story begins with two mysterious suicides, one involving a man at a bus station and another involving a schoolgirl. Although neither seems to have any evidence of foul play, Detective Koiso (Ryosei Tayama) and his partner both suspect something strange is afoot. It appears that both victims do have a link between their deaths, they each watched a video online that ended with an eerie voice saying “you’re not the one.” It seems that this video is gaining notoriety as a cursed video, and everyone who seems to watch it ends up dead shortly after viewing it. In the video, it is said that online video artist Kashiwada Seiji (Yusuke Yamamoto) can be seen being murdered/committing suicide, but the only people who have actually seen the video have all met a grizzly demise at this point. Soon the audience is introduced to Akane Ayukawa (Satomi Ishihara), a very young school teacher who taught the young girl who died from the video. As Akane begins her own investigation into this savage online video, she finds that it may very well be tied to Sadako, the ghostly apparition from the original Ringu. Will she find a way to stop this viral catastrophe, or will it continue to take the lives of all her students?

The Review
In the early 2000s, if you were a horror junkie, then there was a good chance that your main focus was on Japan. It was a hotbed for horror that has not been duplicated since, and the main film to jump start this revolution had to be Hideo Nakata’s Ringu. It was notable for its attempt at bringing atmosphere back into the world of horror cinema. Similar to horror films made during the seventies, Ringu was built upon quiet moments that filled the viewer with an impending sense of dread. At the time, most horror markets were seemingly still more interested in the bodycount-filled slasher films that were popularized during the eighties. This had come to dominate the horror genre, but when Japan had its run of “girl ghost” pictures, the worldwide market completely changed. America produced its own remake, Hideo Nakata made the jump to Hollywood, films like The Others became more prominent, and this seemed to hold true until the “torture porn” movement began to make its own headway. The genre eventually died in Japan, with only the V-Cinema market still producing a noticeably large percentage of horror titles. The majority of these, as you might expect, have been pretty awful. Yet, it seems entirely possible that the genre holds some interest for viewers out there who left out by the recent resurgence of bodycount films. So, could Sadako 3D, the latest Ringu title by the original author, be the upgrade that fans have been looking for? In short, no, not at all.

I must admit, I am fairly prejudiced against 3D films in general. While that doesn’t mean that I am going to bag on Sadako 3D just for the sake of insulting it, it does mean that I came into this film with a distaste for the “gags” that most 3D horror movies try to pull. In modern cinema, where audiences have been reintroduced to this popular gimmick by way of better technology, one would think that most of the gags from 1950s horror films would have simply died out. For many modern films, this is indeed the case. Action films have made decent use of the technology by trying to immerse their audience into the shrapnel-spewing world that they try to create. Animated films have probably done the most with the technology though, as they generally look much better than the live-action ventures on the market. Yet, for some reason, most horror films seem to be stuck in the past. Sadako 3D is perhaps one of the worst culprits in terms of demonstrating this. While Sadako does occasionally attempt to lure its audience in by creating something that resembles atmosphere, more often than not it puts the technology first and tries to scare the audience with a variety of jump scares and severely telegraphed “3D” moments. With objects constantly moving towards the camera, many horror fans are likely to have flashbacks to Friday the 13th part 3 or the climax to A Nightmare on Elm Street: Freddy’s Dead. With the subtly of a hammer-in-the-face, Sadako 3D is not the Japanese horror movie that you might at first think it is.

While the world of Japanese horror has mostly been shown to feature young girls with long black hair, apparitions appearing in dark computer rooms, or nightmarish creatures arising out of spiraling shapes, Sadako 3D acts like a Western view of what the Japanese new-wave of horror was all about… but with bad 3D tossed in. Whenever the movie attempts to generate any real atmosphere, it becomes increasingly overshadowed by its lack of subtlety or dark content. If viewers will recall in the original Ringu, Hideo Nakata avoided bright colors at all costs. His film was shaded in blues and muddy earth tones, sometimes to a detriment because it made the film look murky, but this visual style helped ensure a sense of dream-logic and impending death lurking around every corner. Sadako 3D, however, shows no fear in presenting brightly lit daytime exteriors. It assumes that if enough improbable content shows up on the screen, that audiences are going to feel that this is legitimate horror. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The daylight scenes are a part of the problem, but the lack of genuine suspense is a far worse sin for this horror title. Using jump scares at every available opportunity, our filmmakers do not attempt to keep the audiences on the edge of their seats. If you would indulge me for a moment, I would ask the reader to imagine the most basic horror film device known to man, the “jumping cat” scare. An incredibly common device, I would like for the reader to imagine an idealized version of this trope: In our imaginary movie, we watch as a person walks slowly down a long and dark corridor. All musical cues are absent, and the only sound that can be heard is our protagonist as he/she yells out, likely looking for someone who has separated from the pack. As they continue down the hallway, the music begins to fade in. It gets louder as they reach the peak of the corridor. The music, like a humming inside of our ear, becomes a cacophony of sound as it rises to a crescendo. The audience knows something bad is about to happen, the music is telling us everything we need to know! Then, finally, as the music seems to reach its climax, a cat jumps out of the dark and scares our lead. Now, imagine this sequence without the long walk or the musical buildup. All you have is a cat jumping out of a shadow after one hard cut. In a nutshell, that is ultimately the type of horror that Sadako 3D tries to bring to the screen. Very little in the way of buildup, with all of the emphasis thrown on the inevitable “scary reveal.” Unfortunately, one can not survive without the other.

I have done a considerable amount of griping at this point, I do realize this. While I do not hate Sadako 3D, nor regret sitting down to watch it, there’s no doubt that it is a movie with some relatively serious problems. Still, despite this, there are a couple of other attributes worth mentioning. Despite its apparent low budget, Sadako does have a very nice “look” to it. The set design is actually quite spectacular, and many of the post-production filters really make for a beautiful looking film. The Well Go! Bluray release does look quite phenomenal, I must admit. Going back to the design of the film, the main set for the movie, where our “ghost” committed suicide within the past, is probably the selling point for how good looking this picture can really be. If there is nothing else that I will remember about the movie, it is this set. Featuring some very peculiar wallpaper and fantastic props, the layout of this very unique room is enough to stick with any potential viewer. The casting is also worth noting. While the material here only guarantees generic performances, Satomi Ishihara is fairly memorable in her leading role. A stunning young actress, both myself and my girlfriend were enraptured by her beauty. While the role may not require her to go into any deep places, it does at least showcase her great looks and demonstrates that she may be a solid actress worth keeping an eye on.

The Conclusion
If any audience member actually expected Sadako 3D to continue on with the chills and nuanced terror that Hideo Nakata originally attempted with this series, then I am sure they would be quite disappointed with Sadako 3D. As it stands, this is simply an entertaining time waster. If you’re a fan of the original series, it is probably worth searching out simply to see how the Sadako story is continued, however, don’t go into this one expecting anything terribly scary. It gets a moderate 2 out of 5.

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