SADAKO (FILM REVIEW)

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No matter how little of a horror fan you are, you would most likely have heard of the 1998 japanese classic The Ring. Not only did it launch a new era of stylistic horror, many aspects of the movies were repeated in titles to come in one form or another.

You can’t deny that impressionable introduction. The story of a tortured and aggrieved psychic girl was as disturbing as it was pitiful. And with half of the film centred on the videotape, that jolt of realisation when she crossed from screen to real-life stunned pretty much everyone. And that movement gave body horror a new lease of life, and contortionists everywhere a new avenue of work.

Hideo Nataka, who has worked on several projects both locally and internationally for this franchise, revives the titular character Sadako in a new film.

It starts off with a terrifying sequence. A young girl (Himeka Himejima) is seen locked in a wardrobe as her mother prepares to torch her alive. However, with the help of Sadako, she emerges from the fire unscathed. She ends up at a hospital where budding psychological counsellor Mayu (Elaiza Ikeda) is working and forms an unlikely connection with her, but the doctor has other problems at end.

It turns out, her younger brother Kazuma (Hiroya Shimizu) has gone missing while on the chase for good stories to add to his youtube. She speaks to his consultant Yusuke (Takashi Tsukamoto) and the pair seek out his whereabouts, and realises the connections between the girl and Kazuma.

Like every other Ring movie, it’s a slow grind through spooky happenings as we uncover the mysterious circumstances and Sadako sticks to this formula. It should be satisfying and remains so for the first half, but the second portion spins out of logic and surfaces more questions than answers.

Why is Sadako so interested in the girl? For that matter, why is she so interested in Kazumi and Mayu? Yes, there are loose basis of trespass and the orphan backstory that gives the hauntings some direction, but otherwise at the end, it’s easy to use hindsight to dig up loopholes that riddle the plot.

Motivations and logic aside, there are some gripping moments, not least of all Sadako’s horrific return mid-way. It never gets old to see her routine and it’s obvious from the squeals in the theatre that the audience loves her as much as ever.

Which is why Sadako feels like a missed opportunity. There’s a poignant message here about bonds and parentage, and filtered through the Japanese setting, can layer the horrific tale with some moving morality. But the last madcap frenzy upsets the build-up in favour of histrionics and muddies the water.

There’s a sense that this could be a two-parter, and if so, I would relish a better story and more legit appearances from our iconic female ghost.

Rating: 3.5*

Sadako’s effect is still tangile, but underutilised in favour of a morality tale that fizzes out quickly at the end.

First published: www.moviexclusive.com

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