Sunday, July 7, 2013

Review: Sadako 3D

Version I Own: Non-3D region 3 DVD from Hong Kong

History: I found very little on this one. Basically it's based on the novel S by Koji Suzuki who wrote the original Ring books this entire franchise has been based on. It was released in Japan on May 12th 2012 with little to no release elsewhere. During it's run there was one particular screening that was in 4D where at key moments the theatre would fill with smoke and the audience's legs would be grabbed from under the seat.

Personal History: I've had my eyes on this one since I first found out about it around the time I started this blog because I wrote about it. This is my first viewing of the newest entry in one of my favorite franchises.

Review: When you're a long time fan of any franchise whether it's a book, movie, or a video game you're bound to be disappointed at some point if the creators (or new creators) keep cranking out new installments. So you should naturally anticipate sequels or alternate takes on the story will not be that great. Not even great. Sometimes you just need to anticipate a horrible mess so you don't wind up disappointed every time. This is why when I saw Paranormal Activity 4 I got what I expected, a lesser experience that added little to nothing to the overall series. But I was curious none the less. I think you can see where I'm going. Basically Sadako 3D is another one of those examples. As big of a fan of this franchise I've gone through many interpretations and expansions on the story. Some are great, some are terrible, and some I have very mixed feelings on. So my expectations for Sadako 3D were very low, especially after seeing the trailer. I knew it would be bad. I knew it wouldn't provide enough new to the story to be considered a worthy addition. What I didn't know was some of the directions it would attempt to go in to try and scare the audiences. Some of them were somewhat expected, but others were out of left field and a poor attempt. Anyway, getting to it.

The first thing I noticed about this movie within the first few minutes was how it took a totally different direction in style from the previous stories. It had a very fast paced, quick cut style to it and even some shaky cam. The opening credits were blurred in and out in a rough font like someone scribbled them on the screen. The score was a bass heavy booming "scaaaAAAAaaary" music that was trying too hard. And so forth and so forth. In short it looked and felt right off the bat like an American remake of a classic horror movie. It reminded me of the remakes of A Nightmare On Elm Street and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003, not 2013, the one from 2013 was surprisingly amazing!). But more importantly these opening moments felt like what the American remake of Ring could have been. Thank the Lord it wasn't, as the actual remake from around a decade ago did manage to capture a good portion of what made the original great. No, this had that feeling of a super Americanized remake but coming from the country of the story's origin. It felt like the original story was taken as the base but made changes to make it suit a more mainstream audience or something.
Now in a sense there were some changes that needed to be made to have it properly appeal to a modern audience. It can still have the same kinds of scares as the older movies (which it doesn't) but one part that is severely outdated now is the tech that initiates the plot. In the first adaptations of Ring as it was in the books the curse was spread via a cursed video. This video was on a mysterious VHS tape. I'd like to think that audiences could get behind the creep factor that a tape would give off what with the fuzzy and distorted images from multiple viewings (or copies spoiler alert for a story that's over ten years old). In a way it makes more sense to have the cursed video on tape if anything because of reasons I just stated. Also, think about this. How scary is a scratched up DVD? It skips. It doesn't distort or warp like a tape does. It freezes up and you may need to skip to the next chapter. Way less scary from a pure aesthetic perspective. But in the case of Sadako 3D it's an online clip. That's even less scary! And I can sum it up in one short sentence. 404 File Not Found.
The supposedly scary parts of the movie were so poorly done and 404 is the poorest attempt of them all. Seriously, watch the trailer and in there they treat the 404 error like it is something so terrifying and if you even look on the poster it is there, too. It's like the movie is being sold on an element that is more annoying than scary. The 404 error is in reference to the cursed (now video clip online instead of a mysterious tape) footage that will kill anyone who watches it and how the page won't load the video. The cursed video this time around is also completely different. And not just different in terms of how it interpreted the mysterious imagery. All this was, was footage of a man supposedly killing himself on camera via a live feed and it's the recorded footage that's circling the internet. Obviously there's more to it than that and he didn't kill himself. He was killed by a mysterious being but there's no sign of the body and so forth and so forth you know the deal. Eventually we do get to see the video where he is flying through the air as if being held up by someone being choked to death. Well who do you think was holding him up? Of course, Sadako. And now I move onto some of the parts that bug me the most.

Sadako is a terrifying character. She was born with special abilities that could kill someone with little to no effort. She was murdered when she was still a young woman but still haunts the world in the modern day. She hates the human race so much she wants it wiped out completely and plans to take everyone one by one. Also her appearance is scary. She is a tall woman with a white dress that is wet, dirty, and moldy showing how long she's been down the well. Her long black hair covers her face making her even more mysterious. She has a distinct look and it's creepy. Leave it to Sadako 3D to make this scary character look terrible.
Sadako in Sadako 3D doesn't look like Sadako. Yes she has the white dress, but it looks cheap. Yes she has the long black hair, but it's greatly exaggerated and literally touches the floor. Also she uses as a weapon in multiple scenes. Basically overall it's a Sadako that looks like a Halloween costume or a parody from a movie like Scary Movie. She does not look or feel like Sadako. She looks and feels like a totally different character. But they sure tried hard. Remember a couple sentences ago when I talked about how long her has is? And how it's used as a weapon? Well the theme of this movie IS hair. Her long black hair is everywhere and is used for multiple purposes, specifically to try and make things look scarier. But can you blame them for trying? I guess committing to it is better than throwing it away. But the hair is used like Zombies in modern American horror. The more the merrier I guess. Seems like if you need something scary you can just throw in some zombies and it's an instant horror tale and I guess the same must apply here with her hair. Long black hair is a common theme for Japanese horror but this is just overkill. But that's only one of many things that felt off.
So many things just didn't feel like a Ring film. It's weird cause I've seen almost every version of these stories. Some amazing and some horrendous. But there was one thing they had in common. They all somewhat felt like a Ring tale. I even dug the poorly done 13 episode mini-series based on the second Ring book, Spiral. That adaptation went off the rails by going very fast and loose with the story, but it was still somewhat interesting with some unique ideas. But so many things in Sadako 3D didn't feel like Ring. I'll try and summarize or else I could go on all day.
First, this is supposed to be a sequel, right? Then why is there no recognition of at least the rumors about a cursed video tape from the 90s? Usually urban legends like that would go around. I would almost expect some of the adults in the movie may have heard about it when they were in middle/high school. That really bugged me. Next, why does Sadako now kill instantly? Nowhere else in the stories has Sadako ever killed so instantly. The older stories gave a sense of coming terror with a chance of false hope that may or may not work. It was a brilliant method of pacing and atmosphere. Whereas here you have Sadako literally reaching her hand out of the monitor the very moment you watch the video (sometimes not even when you do watch the video). Next, TV portals. For some reason Sadako now NEEDS a TV to be able to attack. Or a monitor of some kind like a cell phone. Keep that in mind knowing that the whole TV trick was thought up by the filmmakers of the first theatrical Ring movie from 1998. A monitor isn't something she needs to attack. It's something that is an ability, but not her entire means of attack. Lastly, fucking spider Sadakos. Everything was going terrible up to this point and this somehow made it worse. In the third act of the movie a couple of the leads go to the well that Sadako was thrown into to investigate. It was no surprise to see that Sadako crawled out. But it wasn't just her, it was her but with insanely long spider-like legs and attacked like she was a mindless demon from hell. She was quickly defeated only to be followed up by a good dozen more of the SAME THING! This took a lot of credibility from the character in this adaptation cause it made her look weak. And she was very easily defeated in the end, surprisingly.
All in all when it comes down to it this didn't feel like a Ring movie and could have easily been about anything else. This could have been The Unborn, this could have been Darkness Falls, this could have been The Messengers. Basically any of the generic cookie cut horror movies from the last 10 years about demons or angry spirits felt just as creative and scary as this one. It's hard to recognize this as a Ring title. Maybe the concept of Sadako online just works better on paper. Or at the very least in the hands of a more competent set of actors and filmmakers. But what's probably one of the most unsettling is that fact that it's based on a novel by Koji Suzuki, the writer of the fucking original stories!
I was in denial thinking about that. I wonder if this is a case where the adaptation is very poorly done and the novel is a lot better. It just blows my mind that the original writer could turn something so great that he created into something completely unrecognizable from his previous works. I would really like to read the novel but it is yet to be translated. So until that day comes (if it ever does) I guess I'll just be left to wonder or learn to read Japanese. But at least it can't be as bad as The Ring: Terror's Realm, the video game adaption for Sega Dreamcast. I hear that is abysmally horrendously terrible.

Before I close out I found something when doing some of my history research. There's unsurprisingly going to be a sequel. I'll provide the link for the article I read here. It does have some cool ideas with the 4D experience, but I can't imaging this would be much if any better than the first one.

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