Sadako 3D – 2012, Tsumotu Hanabusa *1/2

by Jaime Grijalba.

This was posted originally at Wonders in the Dark.

(Japan, 96 min.)

I’m not a fan of reviewing bad movies, I don’t like reading negative reviews either, specially from those writers that only seem to have two modes: praise or hate. I don’t see film criticism that way, I see it as an opportunity to talk about this miracle that is making a film and then receiving it, with this I mean, the beauty that is having a film reach you, whatever the method may be, that is an accomplishment, it found you and you are watching it, that is a feeling of accomplishment already for the director and for the viewer/reviewer himself. It all comes down, film criticism, to a matter of taste, and as we all know taste varies from critic to critic (or viewer to viewer, even though they would be less acute in the wording of their appraisal or condemnation, or not, sometimes the best judgements come from people in the street, those that are so maligned nowadays, I find myself learning more and more from gut reactions coming out of a theatre than reading 5 different blogs or newspapers, no offense to those writers). What I feel when I read a negative review, specially one that tries to burn and make the director pay for ‘wasting his time’, is sadness, not because they aren’t in their right mind to not like a film, but hate and condemnation is something that is never constructing and that out of spite is just trying to demonstrate some kind of higher level of intelligence that the critics supposedly have, but that is not actual fact nor real. When a critic reviews a movie, it should first be thankful that he is being able to do so in a world that is rapidly evolving and that seems to need serious film criticism less and less. So, I’m not advocating for a mutis from critics towards bad films, because if you think a film is bad, nothing should ever silence you from saying so, but hate, discrimination and name-calling is not the way to review films nowadays. So, what do you do? You go the other way around, there’s nothing more clear to see that a movie is bad is how easy it is to make fun of it, and in this topic we’re not disrespecting the filmmakers nor the movie itself, we’re just using it as a medium of comedy, while not being seriously critical, it is a easy way out for those uncontrolled critics that can’t muster up more than a few ‘they should be ashamed’ or ‘they should be burnt at the stake’ or ‘this movie shouldn’t exist’ or ‘this director should retire already’. Keep it funny, you’re still saying the movie is bad, but you’re not letting yourself show that you’re a complete asshole.So, as you might have guessed, yes ‘Sadako 3D’ is a bad movie, or more, a movie that I didn’t like one bit. For those who know a bit of history of recent asian horror films, and japanese horror movies in particular, should be familiar with the name Sadako. She is one of the most powerful and scariest ghosts in the history of filmmaking, even though the films in which she appears aren’t exactly masterpieces nor the greatest horror films from Japan (those honours are reserved to other more experimental and interesting films), of course, I’m talking about the ‘Ringu’ series of films, consisting of three films in a singular chronology with a linear story and a basic set of characters, starting with a first film from 1998 based on the novel by Kôji Suzuki and an inmediate sequel, also directed by Hideo Nakata named ‘Ringu 2′ (1999), and those two films (one being the continuation of the other) work as an exercise of decreasing fear and increasing confusion, as the modus operandi of the killer (the ghost, Sadako) becomes more and more confusing as the plot progresses, and at the same time, the issues regarding the protagonist who investigates the issues and the mystery, while being bold, it doesn’t help towards the clarity of what happens behind, which wouldn’t be a real problem (the mystery and confusion are the greatest strenghts on the ‘Ju-On’ series of films) if the film wasn’t always visually asking for explanations in every dialogue, frame and discussion that is being had. ‘Ringu’ is more professional in a way, it is what could be seen as the nearest the japanese industry has become to the mainstream horror of the United States (with its own particular nuances). The became the prequel, ‘Ringu 0: Bâsudei’ (2000) that I won’t discuss because I haven’t seen it, but it doesn’t really matter because this new film (even if it does confuse you with its inclusion of the number 3 in the title) is a reboot, a new mythology for us to go into, and it’s not a good one.

‘Sadako 3D’ tries to be trendy and new in a way that was much more interesting in the previously reviewed South Korean film ‘Don’t Click’ (2012), with the issue of online streaming, videos and internet etiquette. There is a video online of an artist commiting suicide, accompanied by Sadako at his side, what is behind this is a really incredible and dumb story, how this man is using Sadako to kill everyone who made fun of him or didn’t like his art, by seducing and framing Sadako into thinking that he is pointing to the culprits of those who through her down a well… and well, while this well… is very well (sorry, had to add that obscure reference), the issue is that the backstory of Sadako is completely different, she is nowsome kind of espiritual incarnation of hate and death, as she isn’t the daughter of some psychic but something else that is never fully explained. She has become a cultural icon of sorts so that her image has become so replicated and known that she is no longer scary, to promote this movie you had an impersonator of Sadako throwing the first ball in a japanese baseball game, that’s the low that the series and this movie in particular has fallen into because of the unoriginality that permeates every frame of the film. I guess that as a commentary on the figure is fine, but the message is muddled over the seriousness in which the whole plot is taken, I would’ve prefered a comedy, a tongue-in-cheek film that talks about how silly Sadako is really, I would’ve prefered that before the ending we had: a portal/well that summons Sadako-like monsters (that move like a spider and have gaping jaws that try to bite and destroy you) that are no longer interested in scaring you to death as much as chase you through a bathroom that is destroyed by her powerful arm/paws. This series has gone down the toilet because they prefered to have the image of Sadako instead of an original idea.

The film is bad, to me, because I think that the idea of having multiple Sadakos running around chasing people is stupid and has nothing to do with the mythology of the Ringu series, they rebuted into this undescribable mess that is actually appealing to watch. I can’t say that I wasn’t glued to the screen all the way through this disaster, it looked and sounded good, and even if the CGI was a bit crap (better than the CGI in ‘The Ring’ remakes at least) and it is filmed in an interesting way with wide shots and impressive moments of scary sillyness, specially whenever Sadako’s arm went through the screen of a computer or the screen of a cellphone. The acting is genuine, but I can’t possibly tell how they kept a straight face when the end came. Anyway, I can easily call this one of the worst asian horror movies that I’ve ever seen, and that’s a statement I’m not very sure if I can maintain in the long run, since there’s still so much to discover.

A brief note to those who came this far into this article, I know they are few, but I really appreciate the readings, I truly do. Now, 2012 is ending and I have no more than 3 other columns on the Asian Films of 2012 to make for the rest of the year, I’ve actually stopped watching new asian films as I know exactly the three films that I will cover, so, thanks to the information given by Sam Juliano, I’ll have the chance to write once a week starting January, but I’m not sure what to write about, so starting now I’m accepting suggestions on a series to do or whatever you want me to subject to. Some of you know my tastes, some of you don’t, I’d like to hear from both groups of people… it doesn’t have to be film related, or ever review-centered, whatever you are interested in me tackling during 2013 is fine to me. So, shoot away, will it be regarding this film or your suggestions, your comments are my payment for this humble exercise.

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