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Sadako 3D – Review

by Shyla Fairfax

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In this 3rd “sequel” to Ringu, the threat of technology and ghosts is amped up by the prevalence of the Internet. While in the original Ringu movies, a videotape was the source of a curse, now a viral online video makes the curse far more accessible to the general public. Although this is not an “official” sequel, the film does build off of this story, citing someone’s attempt to resurrect Sadako as the source of this new curse. While it is a very interesting premise, the execution is not great.

The story follows Akane, a high school teacher who catches wind of her students obsession with finding an online video of a guy killing himself. Although the rumor is rampant, most people can’t seem to find it. Moreover, “urban legend” has it that if you see the video, you die. Of course, there are always those who refuse to be reasoned with, and they are the ones who won’t give up the search. When one of Akane’s students is found dead from an apparent suicide, she is unnerved to find out from another student that the girl had found the video. Worse, now that student is determined to find the video as well. Akane walks in on her watching it and just as it ends she is stunned to see a girl come out of the screen and attack. Akane helps save the girl but from that moment on becomes paranoid that she too is being hunted. When her boyfriend, Takanori accidentally comes across it she realizes she has to find a way to save him.

The film is interesting insofar as gender roles go. There is an implied role reversal between Akane and Takanori that is reliant on her being in the role of the hero, him in the role of damsel-in-distress. Like a typical fairytale structure, Takanori is kidnapped by some evil, and it is up to Akane to find him, “slay the dragon” as it were, and rescue him. Having a woman on a mission to save her boyfriend is definitely a nice change of pace, and yet the film constructs the plot as though it were not out of the ordinary. And for this couple, it isn’t. In a flashback, we learn that Akane has a special gift – her screams can shatter everything around her. In horror cinema, typically a woman screaming is a sign of vulnerability and powerlessness, but for Akane it is just the opposite. However, she does not see it that way. Concerned with being a “freak” Akane hides her gift, ashamed of it. The flashback shows Akane as a child. When a madman enters the school the students all fear for their lives and run, but Akane stays put and lets out an earth-shattering scream. Glass from the windows shower the madman and one chunk lands in his throat, effectively subduing him. Unfortunately Akane quickly realizes that her efforts to save their lives does not stop the children from shunning her for her peculiarity. All accept Takanori that is. In fact, when Akane considers suicide to escape the humility, it is Takanori who gets her off the roof. He thanks her for saving his life in a very matter-of-factly manner, and presumably they have been inseparable ever since. So it’s undserstandable that when Takanori is taken from her, Akane will stop at nothing to get him back.

Still, her strength proves to be something of a weakness for her. The thought of using her ability is truly repugnant to her, and so she spends a good part of her rescue mission allowing herself to be cornered and pathetic. She does an awful lot of whimpering for someone who can scream her way out of virtually anything. First she cowers in the middle of the street when Sadako appears to be coming through a large video-billboard, but this also speaks to the recurrent motif in Japanese cinema of technology consuming the world in some literal way. Later on, when she finds the cottage where the curse began she is overwhelmed when multiple Sadako-like creatures crawl out of the well and come at her. They are creepy, i’ll give her that, but it is disappointing to watch her squirm and crumble when she is perfectly capable of fighting back. And yes, eventually she does. After screaming the attackers to pieces she is confronted with the true evil, Sadako herself. The ghost wants her body so she can thrive again, and does not hesitate to take it. Luckily, Takanori appears just in time to see it happen. In what seems like a fit of rage more than anything, Takanori smashes his cell phone (the only screen in the room) which causes Sadako to lose her power of Akane and disappear. When Akane awakes in his arms he smiles and thanks her once again for saving his life.

Obviously, there are some definite plot holes in this one, and the story is pretty far removed from Ringu’s, but if you can manage to think of it as a separate entity, it’s possible to enjoy. The themes are typical of J-Horror but the reversing of gender roles is not something one comes across everyday. It might just be the film’s saving grace.

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Author: Shyla Fairfax

Shyla is currently in the final stages of completing a Master's Degree in Film Studies at Carleton University with a focus on Slasher Cinema, so it seems her passion for cinema has become a fixation by which she makes all life decisions. Her research interests include, but are not limited to, Horror and Gender. She is particularly fascinated by J-Horror and its relationship to notions of technology and the body.

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