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September 15, 2013

Movie Review: Sadako 3D (2012, Blu-ray)

Review By: Rob Sibley

If I learned anything over the years of watching dozens of J-horror films, it's that you can't keep a good ghost girl down. The most interesting thing about Sadako 3D is it's not a sequel to Ring 2. This is actually the “official” sequel to “Rasen”. If Rasen doesn't sound familiar let's do a quick history lessen shall we?

Rasen was originally intended to be the sequel to Ring 2, it was based of the novel “Spiral” by Koji Suzuki. A very prolific J-horror author who also penned the original novels for Ring, Spiral and Dark Water. His short story “Dream Cruise” was adapted into an excellent episode of the short lived Masters of horror series on showtime. Now The Ring & Rasen were both released in Japan at the same time but the thing is The Ring did box office bank. But Rasen bombed, so producers pretty much ignored the film and made The Ring 2. So the film became forgotten. 

Which is a pity since Rasen is a superior film then Ring 2. Anyhow, as mentioned Sadako 3D is a sequel to Rasen... and that's the most interesting thing about this missed opportunity. J-horror over the years has really become kind of dull. Thanks in part to us Americans diluting the genre by remaking generally solid Japanese films. While the US remakes of The Ring, Dark Water & The Grudge were successful chillers. We had poor films such the US takes on Pulse, Shudder and One Missed Call were the final nails in the coffin. After these Japan still produced some solid entries into the J-horror field. 

Mainly Takashi Shimizu's Marebito & the stunningly creepy Reincarnation. But the more recent J-horror films such as The Shock Labyrinth and Tortured 3D have been less then suspenseful. Sadako 3D sadly falls into the category of being extremely dull.This film was being touted as the “final” film in the Ring series but alas this is not true as a sequel to Sadako is currently in the works. 

 At a local high school, there is a rumor. An online video of someone committing suicide. If it were only a prank, or the work of a deranged artist in town, the students wouldn't be killing themselves after watching it, would they? The police would have a theory about the quickly-growing body count? And what about the woman in white with long hair?

Alright so this "Sequel" is a bit different for the fact that no longer is the Sadko curse passed on through a VHS tape. Now Sadako has gone viral, so if you watch the video on a I-phone or your laptop you are toast. This adds an interesting element and makes the stale franchise feel a bit more fresh. If only it was executed more properly. The scares are mainly of the jump variety, the creepy atmosphere is pretty much gone. 

The reason the creepy atmosphere is gone is due to the polished look of the film which interestingly enough is one of the films best assets. The older films were obviously shot on a budget and on film so they had a realistic grainy look to them. Now everything is super sleek and almost futuristic looking. The film was obviously shot on digital so it looks spotless. This crystal clear quality robs the film of it's atmosphere. Don't get me wrong it's a beautifully shot film.  The rich cinematography is the best part of the film, but this kind of photography belong in a high tech thriller... not a J-horror film. 

They also mix things up a bit by adding in a serial killer of sorts who helps Sadako out. Sadako... how does the pale skinned, long haired ghost girl fair after all these years? Not so good, the creepy makeup and editing effects to make her move unnaturally have sadly been replaced by cheap looking makeup and contorting CGI limbs.  

So besides the stunning cinematography are there any upsides to the film? It's well acted, you can expect your typical wide eyed performances right b4 Sadako takes her next victim. But the female lead played by  Satomi Ishihara is very convincing. She's a fabulous little actress who sadly is trapped in a sub-par film. The film supplies some new back story to Sadako herself which is interesting. Despite the fact that it contridicts some of the back story set up in the previous films. Side note, all of the actresses are cute as a button so kudos to the casting director!

 Well Go USA brings Sadako 3D to American shores in a superb 1.78:1 1080P widescreen transfer. As you can tell from the screencaps this is a sleek looking film. The transfer is virtually flawless, colors are strong, detail is high and black levels are perfect. For those with 3D capable TV's you have the option to watch the film as intended. 

For audio we get two tracks, a  Japanese DTS-HD MA 5.1track that really is well balanced and atmospheric. The second track is a standard Japanese 5.1 track. 

Sadly no extra's are included. 

So at the end of the day I can only recommend this film to die hard J-horror fans. But for the rest of us... SKIP IT.

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