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Friday, May 12, 2023

‘Sadako DX’ Review – The Latest ‘Ring’ Installment Attempts a Horror-Comedy Reinvention

The Ringu franchise has a much more convoluted history than most people realize, with Koji Suzuki’s original novel actually being part of a genre-bending trilogy that differs greatly from the established mythology of the films. In fact, before Sadako ever made the leap to the big screen (and consequently overseas), her first live-action appearance was in an obscure TV movie that preceded Hideo Nakata’s film by 3 whole years – and that’s not even mentioning the Korean adaptation from 1999.

My point is that the Ringu films have always thrived on iteration and innovation, with each new installment adding something new to the Suzuki’s original story and helping to propel Sadako to international infamy. These updates don’t always work, like in the case of 2012’s absurd Sadako 3D, but even then, the results are still usually entertaining. The latest of these narrative refurbishings comes in the form of Hisashi Kimura’s Sadako DX, which aims to further evolve the cursed videotape into a fast-paced horror-comedy for a new generation of fans.

Focusing on a more deadly strain of Sadako’s viral curse (which now kills its viewers after a mere 24 hours instead of the iconic seven days), the film follows genius high-schooler Ayaka Ichijo (played by Fuka Koshiba) as she attempts to beat the pale ghost in time to save her younger sister after she accidentally got her hands on the cursed tape. Along the way, Ayaka is aided by the quirky Oji Maeda (Kazuma Kawamura) and the cynical medium Kenshin (Hiroyuki Ikeuchi), both of whom have their own reasons to take on Sadako.

While it’s technically the 13th feature film in this series, Sadako DX boasts a mostly standalone narrative, featuring no recurring protagonists or references to specific events from previous films. That’s why it makes sense that the flick updates some of the rules behind Sadako’s supernatural mischief. Other than the aforementioned 24-hour timer, this time around, copying and forwarding the tape will no longer grant immunity to its viewers and Sadako has a habit of tricking her victims by appearing in the form of someone they know (with the film borrowing heavily from David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows).

Unfortunately, the new additions to the mythology are kind of a mixed bag. While I like the idea of the cursed videotape showing a Found-Footage-style POV of Sadako walking up to her victims, the omission of the nightmarish imagery that used to accompany the tape results in these scenes feeling a lot less creepy. Sadako herself is also surprisingly toothless here, often acting more like a watered down (and often comedic) plot device rather than a legitimate threat. There’s nothing particularly wrong with the new actress’ performance as the viral killer, but the film’s odd creative choices – not to mention some disappointing makeup and effects work – remove much of her menace.

Sadako DX

This is partly due to the script’s bizarre tonal issues, as the story can’t quite blend its horrific and comedic elements into a coherent whole. Certain scary sequences are inexplicably played for laughs while a handful of gags that would have been entertaining in another context are ruined by the decidedly serious subject matter as these teenagers attempt to evade a horrific death. This results in clashing moods that hinder the experience and keep the film from feeling like a coherent horror comedy.

That being said, the film’s ensemble of cursed misfits is unexpectedly memorable, with a unique protagonist and charming secondary characters making us at least feel sympathy for Sadako’s next targets even if we’re not consistently terrified. From the germophobic shut-in Roido (who shows up to the final confrontation in full biohazard gear) to our autistic-coded protagonist, I appreciate how there was an attempt to keep these characters from feeling like generic slasher fodder despite their general lack of depth. Of course, a lot of this can be attributed to the talented cast, with the main duo of Koshiba and Kawamura being especially apt at transforming their characters’ quirks and idiosyncrasies into believable personalities.

The film’s final act is also much more interesting than most of the experience preceding it, with our main characters finally getting the chance to interact as a group and Ayaka finding a clever science-based treatment for Sadako’s viral curse (a plot point that might have been influenced by Japan’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic). I also really enjoyed the clever post-credits sequence, though it probably won’t be as effective if you’re watching the film at home.

Sadako DX features some dodgy humor and suffers from a disappointing lack of scares (especially when compared to earlier entries in the franchise), but even a long-time fan like myself has to admit that the picture sort of works as a genre-defying experiment. It may not succeed in all (or even most) of its narrative ambitions, but I’m grateful that Hisashi Kimura and Yuya Takahashi at least tried to present audiences with something new rather than rehashing the same old Ringu stories from the 90s.

And while experienced horror hounds will probably regard this sequel as a mere genre oddity rather than a serious addition to the long-running franchise, I think Sadako DX could also serve as a fun little piece of gateway horror for fans who are just starting to dip their toes into scary media.

The post ‘Sadako DX’ Review – The Latest ‘Ring’ Installment Attempts a Horror-Comedy Reinvention appeared first on Bloody Disgusting!.


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Got any friends who might like this scary horror stuff? GO AHEAD AND SHARE, SHARE!

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