There has been a treasure trove of movies revolving around the horror franchise 'The Ring,' which was based on the Japanese film 'Ringu.' There have been remakes and sequels of the original in a few different countries, in addition to the original sequels from Japan. The whole premise is that if you watched a clip on VHS, you would die in a matter of days with rumors of a scary girl with long black hair appearing and jumping out of your television, which meant your untimely death. The movies worked and were known for their uncanny creepy factor and haunting atmosphere, which caused nightmares in youths around the globe.
Now, you might be wondering about that word in the above paragraph, VHS. Before Blu-rays, before DVDs, there was VHS, which was the consumer grade analog recoding videotape. 'Sadako' is part of this whole 'The Ring' franchise, but times have changed, and it would be just plain weird to have people today watching videos on VHS. Instead, the creepy clip has made its way online as a viral video and is causing quite the stir. Now, I'm not sure if this is a remake, a sequel, or something different all together, but the package bills it as the "Terrifying Conclusion', which I can say is definitely not terrifying. Nor does it make sense as a reboot or sequel.
Writer and director Yoshinobu Fujioka and Tsutomu Hanabusa have changed a few things this time around from what we have learned from the past 'Ring' films and seems to take their cues from Danny Boyle's '28 Days Later.' For example, in the original films, after watching this creepy clip, it would take several days for you to die, where as in 'Sadako' after you watch the clip, you yourself will commit suicide instantly, much like how the zombies in '28 Days Later' turned instantly after being infected. Another difference is that the clip everyone is watching is different this time around and showcases someone committing suicide themselves, rather than the disturbing objects and people from the old video.
The film opens with the suicide of Kashiwada (Yusuke Yamamoto), which is recorded on his webcam and shown all over the internet. Those who watch his suicide will kill themselves after viewing. Only thing is, nobody can seem to find this clip online at free will. Then we center on Akane (Satomi Ishihara), a school teacher who hears about this video through her boyfriend Takanori (Koji Seto). She comes to find out that one of her students has watched the video and has died. Shortly after that, another student pulls up the clip online and Akane tries to stop it only to be confronted by the scary girl with long black hair. Akane begins to see this girl everywhere and begins to haunt her loved ones. Akane must dig deep down into her rough past before it's too late.
The movie itself never delivers on scares or is frightening in any way, at least to a person over the age of 8. There seems to be a few sub plots that slow the movie down and never seem to go anywhere. 'Sadako' could have done a good job at the creepy girl's backstory, but is merely skimmed over and only reveals what we already know. I figure if you're going to do an origin segment in your movie, go the whole way. Then the film takes a genre turn from psychological horror to a straight up monster movie. On the other hand, the transition from VHS to online viral video was a good step here and was touched on nicely in the film. The only other thing I rather enjoyed was seeing Akane have some strange similarities to the girl with the long black hair. Other than that, all of the scare gags and story plots were all familiar and have been seen many times before. Unless you are a super-fan of 'The Ring' franchise, 'Sadako' will disappoint beyond belief.
'Sadako' comes with a decent 1080p HD transfer in 3D/2D and is presented in 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The picture looks solid with detail looking sharp. Closeups showcase great facial lines and stitching on clothing. In just a couple of the wider shots, the image goes a little soft, but this doesn't detract from the viewing experience. The colors pop and nothing looks over or under saturated with black levels running deep and inky. However, there are several scenes in which the director uses a blue tint to portray a creepy factor, which almost never works. Other than that, colors look great.
The 3D aspect is less than stellar. First let me say that the 3D transfer barely darkens the picture, unlike some 3D releases we've seen, which is a good thing. But the 3D effects don't do the job. Sure, there is added depth, but we don't feel as absorb in the 3D world as one would like. And being a horror movie with several moments of things jumping out for cheap scares, the 3D doesn't utilize that at all. Instead, like we've seen many times before, the 3D pop-out effects are in the form of broken glass flying on the screen. Other than that, the 3D was underused and might have been just a marketing ploy for bigger sales. I did not notice any compression issues or aliasing on this release.
This release comes with a good DTS-HD 5.1 Japanese mix with English subtitles. The dialogue is crystal clear and is always easy to understand with no evidence of cracks or hissing. The sound effects shine here with some decent haunting noises that creep up in surrounds and at times pack a powerful punch when the creepy girl shows herself.
The ambient noises are also decent as well with good crowd noise and scary sound effects that showcase some good directionality. The bass also shows itself, mostly when scarier scenes are happening. The music and score sounds good and provide a decent mood that tries to amplify the horror aspect, but ultimately never does. This is a solid audio presentation.
'Sadako' could have been better than what it was. Instead, we get story filler until the next scare or death. It's very unsatisfying, considering the fact that this film franchise has been very successful. The 3D aspect is not worth the 3D label, while the audio presentation does a good job. There is only a trailer as far as extras go too, which is unfortunate. If you're a hardcore fan of this franchise, you might want to check this out. For the rest of us, this isn't even worthy of a rental.