Man, those Japanese apartments are tiny!
Main cast: Satomi Ishihara
Director: Tsutomu Hanabusa
Once upon a time there was a hit horror movie in Japan called Ring, based on the book of the same name by Koji Suzuki–one of my most favorite writers. There was a sequel that was made and released at the same time as Ring called Rasen. And then they made Ring 2, which completely ignored the events of Rasen. This was 1998. In 2012, Rasen got its own sequel, Sadako. In 3D. This one is, in fact, based on another book by Suziki, called S–based VERY VERY loosely, according to the novel’s synopsis.
Several years after the events of Rasen, there’s a new ‘cursed’ video, this one an online clip of a man streaming his own suicide. And anyone who watches it will be compelled to commit suicide as well.
We learn of the cursed video clip when teacher Akane Ayukawa catches one of her students searching for the clip on her phone instead of paying attention in class. Akane takes the phone and, seeing a link on the screen claiming to be the “cursed video clip”, tries to watch it. But the link leads to a fake video, and everyone is safe. Until later that night when the student gets home and the video–which so far has been impossible to find at the end of a series of dead links–plays on her phone. The student dies and everyone in the class is sad, especially fellow student Lisa (Wikipedia has her listed as Risa, but the subtitles say “Lisa”, which, when you think about it is pretty politically incorrect of the Netflix subtitles).
Lisa/Risa wants to get to the bottom of her friend’s death, so also sets out in search of the cursed video clip, finding it just as Akane wanders into the computer lab where Lisa is being strangled by a living tentacle of hair coming from the computer screen.
Hey, I never said the movie wasn’t goofy. But I’m a huge fan of Suzuki’s original Ring trilogy, so I had to give this one a shot.
And it just gets sillier when Akane screams and shatters the computer screen.
Meanwhile, a police detective, who insists as all good movie police detectives are supposed to, that curses aren’t real, is investigating this recent rash of deaths by visiting the apartment of the “online artist” who originally broadcast his own suicide.
It turns out the man, who wants revenge against all of his online haters, has decided the best way to seek that vengeance is to resurrect Sadako, the telekinetic girl who was pushed down a well a long time ago and who was the subject of a rash of killer videotape deaths back when videotapes were still a thing. First he tries to do this by killing a number of girls who resemble Sadako with her long hair, dressing them in similar white gowns, and dumping their bodies down the same well where Sadako was dumped. When that fails to give her a new body to inhabit, he kills himself online, cursing the video clip so that anyone who watches it will be compelled to do the same. Everyone, that is, except one person. The perfect match for Sadako and the new host body for her vengeful spirit. It just so happens Akane and her magic screams are just the vessel she’s seeking.
Luckily the detective comes around–after his own partner shoots himself in the head after watching the video clip–and helps Akane find the place where Sadako was killed in hopes of stopping the curse–and getting Akane’s boyfriend Takanori, who was previously sucked into the side of a panel truck with a video screen on the side, back.
I know, I know, just go with it.
I don’t know what I was expecting going into this movie, but I know what I was hoping for, and I did NOT get it.
Well, I got some of it. I was hoping for atmosphere, and the film spends its first two acts building that atmosphere with a heavy dose of tension, boiling to an amazing third act and climax, neither of which ever materialized, and were swapped out instead for a BADLY-CGI’d chase through a condemned mall that reminded me a little too much of the badly-conceived and over-done third act of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake’s third act chase through the old slaughterhouse. And when I say bad CGI, I’m not just whistling Dixie! Holy crap!
The CGI of these fake-looking Sadako-spider creatures that chase Akane around were less terrifying than the CGI hair snaking out of the computer screens. I mean, that was actually creepy, but these creatures are so stupid looking I’m glad I was watching this one myself. If my daughter’d been watching with me, she would have respected me just a little less for having her sit through this thing.
And it’s not bad enough the visuals of that last act, but the logic isn’t there, either. Akane learns she can do away with the Sadakp-spider creatures by simply hitting them with a metal pipe she finds on the ground. So she takes out half a dozen or so, then throws the pipe down and runs away. Throws it down? You know there are more of them after you!
Better yet, if you have a magic scream that shatters glass and makes ghosts disappear, USE THAT!!! If I could shatter glass with a scream, I’d be doing it all the time.
But I think the most grievous error of the last act of this movie comes in the end. When the credits roll, we have nothing. No change in the status quo, no real development of either of the main characters–Akane isn’t changed by this experience, at least not to any degree we get to see by the end of the movie. And when you factor in that after-credit scene, we’re let down even further because it totally negates the stakes of anything we just went through. It was all for nothing!!!
And don’t even get me started on the 3D!!! Here’s a hint, if a movie was made specifically to be shown in 3D, like this one was, don’t watch it in 2D, because there are going to be a dozen really obvious 3D effects that don’t play at all, at all, and only work against the movie, instead.
Plus, when they actually show the “cursed video clip”…hmm, no, that was lame. I mean REALLY lame. Comparing this video even to the nonsensical one from the first American version, The Ring, is like comparing the quality and concept of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video to that of Journey’s “Separate Ways”. WORLD’S apart here.
Now, all that being said, there were a few bright spots here.
And by a few, I mean one. Satomi Ishihara playing Akane. This Tokyo-born actress gave everything there was to give, moving easily from mild-mannered teacher and disbeliever of the supernatural, to action-ready ass kicker. She conveyed equal parts terror and sadness with a strength many other actors in similar movies only wish their characters possessed. Despite how absurd this movie got in MANY places, Ishihara carried it almost exclusively.
I don’t know if I’d recommend this movie to just anyone. As a horror movie it meets the necessary criteria, but it’s just not that scary, and the silly parts really bring it down fast and hard. As a new entry in the Ring series, I guess it adds a new dimension–literally–to the mythology, but I’m just not convinced it was a needed one. Sure, I’d love to see Suzuki carry that series on forever, but if this is the quality we’re looking at … maybe enough’s enough.
–C. Dennis Moore