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Sadako 3D (2012)
Well Go USA
Blu-ray Disc Released: 6/4/2013
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 5/22/2013
When we think about a movie that we've seen, sometimes all that we remember is the movie itself (and sometimes we wish that we could forget it all together). However, certain films carry more detailed recollections. In 1998, I begin hearing about a Japanese movie called The Ring (or Ringu), and people were saying some interesting things about it. I hunted down a copy on VCD and the transfer was awful, the subtitles were questionable, and I had to change the disc halfway through, I still loved the movie. It was hypnotic, atmospheric, and the freaky ending was definitely shocking. Following that, I got an import DVD of the film and eventually the Region 1 release (and I would love to have it on Blu-ray Disc...I'm looking at you Universal). I also saw the other films in the series, the Thai version, the American version, and I read the novels. So, when I heard that a new movie based in the Ringu universe was made, I was very interested in seeing it. Can Sadako 3D live up to the original or is it cursed?
As Sadako 3D opens, the suicide of Kashiwada (Yusuke Yamamoto) is captured by webcam and broadcast on the internet. Those who watch it commit suicide themselves. The rumor of a "cursed video clip" begins to circulate, but no one can find it online. Akane (Satomi Ishihara) hears her boyfriend, Takanori (Koji Seto), talking about it, and then she hears rumors that the death of one of her students may have been linked to it. This causes the other students to begin gossiping about the "clip". When one of these students actually pulls the video up on a school computer, Akane intervenes and finds herself confronted by a woman with long black hair and pale skin who emerges from the computer monitor. Akane begins to see this woman everywhere. Meanwhile, the police are looking into Kashiwada's suicide and sudden rash of other suicides and they learn that he was obsessed with someone named Sadako (Ai Hashimoto). When Sadako threatens Takanori, Akane decides that she must tap into her own dark past and intervene.
My wife and I often joke that when the day comes when we want to let our kids watch Ringu, there will have to be a lesson beforehand on what a videotape is. The makers of Sadako 3D have obviously grasped this idea as well, as they have made the logical step of having the angry spirit make the leap to the online world. While it is touched on in the movie, in the novels by Koji Suzuki, Sadako is seen as a virus when will spread throughout the world. Given the proliferation of viral videos, it only makes sense that Sadako would be on the internet and this clever notion serves as a great jumping off point for the movie.
Unfortunately, everything goes downhill from there. I really can't say if Sadako 3D is a remake, a reboot, or a sequel, as it doesn't qualify for any of those labels. If anything, it's a side-story in that universe, but the makers of the film seem determined to separate themselves from the other The Ring movies. First of all, the original video is not used. Common sense says that the video from the other movies would now be online doing damage. But, Co-writers Yoshinobu Fukioka and Tsutomu Hanabusa (who also directed) have decided that it will be a new video which will be the source of the problem. So, they have a guy broadcast his suicide...to five viewers. If his website only had five visitors, then I think I understand why he killed himself. And instead getting an eerie phone call, or having Sadako emerge from the computer to scare them to death, the victims all kill themselves. There's no warning, there's no seven days of dread and suspense, it simply happens. The movie also glosses over Sadako's backstory and merely states that people were afraid of a girl so they threw her in a well. What if we haven't seen the other movies? Is this even the same Sadako from the other movies? Kashiwada's reasons for his obsession with Sadako are vague and never make sense. The movie really goes off the rails in the finale, when it becomes a monster movie.
I can imagine that making an updated version of Ringu would be a daunting task. You don't want to make a carbon copy of the original movie, but you do want to make something which the fans will like. I'm not sure who Sadako 3D is meant to satisfy. There is one cool shot in the movie (why are moths suddenly in every horror movie?) and the decision to have similarities between Sadako and Akane was a smart one. However, the movie contains no tension and no creepy moments. That's what The Ring movies are supposed to be about! The story is so vague and lacking that it's hard to care about any of the characters. For once, I don't think that anything was lost in translation -- I simply think that the makers of the movie thought that they could skate by on a thin plot as long as Sadako grabbed someone every few minutes. The idea of a cursed online video has been used in several movies, but it should have been the originator of the cursed video to elevate the subgenre. But, Sadako can't rise to the occasion. Oh well.
Sadako 3D apparently wanted us to learn more about he pop group Dee Dee ESP on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Well Go USA. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 18 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing no notable grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look good and the image is never overly dark or bright (although many shots are bathed in blue). The level of detail is good, although a few shots were soft and the 2D version shows good depth. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 2.8 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The surround sound effects during the attack sequences are very good and when Sadako appears the "sting" noise fills the speakers. The stereo effects are good, most notably in crowd scenes and they show good separation. The subwoofer providers a nice "boom" when Sadako appears. As the title would imply, the Disc also offers a 3D version of the film which has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the 1080p HD MVC transfer runs at an average of 17/8 Mbps. On the positive side, unlike some other Blu-ray 3D which I've watched, the image here is not dark or muddy, and as far as the brightness and colors go, it looks a lot like the 2D transfer. The disappointment comes in the 3D effects themselves. The depth is OK, but at no point does it have that immersive "View Master" 3D look which we crave. And given the subject matter, the movie surprisingly has very few moments where it can take advantage of 3D. The shots of Sadako jumping out of a computer screen always cut before a true 3D effect can begin. There are several scenes with exploding glass and the shards look nice floating out of the screen, but this effect is done over and over and loses its power quickly. Anything with "3D" in the title should have more 3D than this. The 3D version carries the same audio as the 2D version.
The lone extra on the Sadako 3D Blu-ray Disc is a TRAILER for the film.
Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2013.