Back in April, I reviewed another installment in the long running J-horror genre — Tormented 3D. While I may still be a fan of these films, they certainly seem to be running on little more than steam these days. With Tormented directed by Takashi Shimizu — the man behind six of the Ju-On/Grudge films — my hopes were set higher than they should have been. Even the man who helped start the craze seems to be running out of ideas. Sadly, now it appears the Ringu series is on its way out the door as well. But director/co-writer Tsutomu Hanabusa’s Sadako 3D is the result of diminishing returns and is a far cry from both Hideo Nakata’s original or even Gore Verbinski’s American remake.
Author Koji Suzuki’s original Ring novel is now on its sixth film iteration. Here we find the killer video tape making the rounds online. Yes, the long-haired killer has finally gone viral. Detective Koiso (Ryosei Tayama) is investigating a string of suicides involving an online video. Meanwhile, Akane (Satomi Ishihara) is trying to quietly teach her students, but they can’t help but be distracted searching for the infamous video in class. After a girl dies from falling out her bedroom window, Koiso begins to piece things together leading to the recorded suicide of online artist Kashiwada Seiji (Yusuke Yamamoto). Now, Akane must deal with her kinetic powers in order to stop the resurrection of Sadako (Ai Hashimoto) and save all of humanity in the process.
Hanabusa does hit some of the right beats to keep Sadako 3D moving along. But as is usually the case, you can almost set your watch by the one-hour mark that everything will start to make sense right as the film goes bat-shit crazy during the finale. Along with co-writer Yoshinobu Fujioka, the two have set forth to end Sadako’s vengeance once and for all. The Blu-ray packaging may state: “The Terrifying Conclusion,” but there isn’t anything here that could be considered truly terrifying. Save for the fact that the series is going out with such a whimper.
There’s been talk of rebooting the American franchise in 3D, and while the now-dated VHS angle can be thrown out, they could still use the online viral idea and run with it. However, if any horror series could make great use of 3D, it’s this one. What could be more frightening (at least at home) than filmmakers making it seem as if Sadako was coming right out of your home television? Sadly, all Sadako 3D winds up being is the literal final nail in the coffin for the Japanese series.
If you’re looking for some satisfying use of 3D, Sadako 3D is brought to Blu-ray with an MVC (3D) and AVC/MPEG-4 (2D) encode in a 1.78: 1 aspect ratio. Lately, distributors have seen that you can fit both versions on one disc — there are still a few drawbacks. Just as Lionsgate saw noise creep up in the 2D version of Dredd, the finale in Sadako is littered with the same problem. Aside from other anomalies, this is a really good looking transfer. No banding or crush to speak of (something horror movies in particular fall victim to), but there was an instance or two of aliasing involving some window shades. There’s also the faintest bit of ghosting involving some harsh backlighting and one shot with some obvious edge enhancement along Akane’s face against a brightly lit background. Detail is pretty impeccable which is a good thing here as there’s so much hair being thrown in your face. Speaking of which, the introduction of 3D to the series has, of course, belittled the terror to shock value. It’s still used reasonably well, even if the 3D horror doesn’t really grab you by the throat the way the director thinks it is.
Two audio options are available: a 5.1 Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio and a 2.0 Dolby Digital track. It also comes with English subs. The DTS track makes fantastic use of surround effects, and while the story may not be sucking you into the world of Sadako, the music and effects do their damnedest. The biggest payoff is the LFE effect, which just may wind up being the only real startling effect the film has going for it. They also do a great job with directionality and bringing Sadako’s creature sounds to life — even if she sure sounds an awful lot like Stripe from Gremlins. There are no special features, but a string of Well Go USA trailers play before the main menu for The Guillotines, Tormented 3D, and Shock Labyrinth 3D.
I have to give Well Go USA a hand for taking a risk on bringing these 3D features stateside. They’re definitely worth a look if you’re still hanging onto hope for J-horror. But unfortunately, it seems as though not even Sadako herself can save them from being run into the ground. As for the Sadako 3D Blu-ray itself, it’s definitely at least worth a rental if you’re curious, but considering it’s selling so cheap on Amazon, if you love this sort of thing, there’s far worse films you could spend your money on.
Cover art and photo courtesy Well Go USA