The nightmare of Sadako returns in the aptly titled Sadako, a continuation of the Ringu series. Director Hideo Nakata returns to inject the horror and the chills back into the franchise, reinvigorating but not entirely resurrecting.
It comes as a young girl is brought to a hospital after a tragic accident, and psychologist Mayu Akikawa is tasked with helping find out what happened; meanwhile, Mayu’s brother, Kazuma, goes missing when he looks to capitalize on the accident for viral internet views.
The film uses the established canon to flesh out the idea of reincarnation, doing so to cleverly hint but never give away the full picture, appreciated during an age of over-explanation.
The story’s more interesting non-horror pieces come from the young girl and her interactions with Mayu, this bond of loneliness at the pit of their cores, an interesting way to tie them together. There’s kindness and understanding between them and it could have been leveraged more to help sell where the story goes. Which is a major complaint about most of the film.
Sadako suffers from fits and starts, jumping into something potentially exciting but ending that excitement before it picks up. The interesting moments come between lengthy sequences of calm hospital fare, where the relationship between Mayu and the young girl, and Mayu and her brother Kazuma, could have been more present than a handful of scenes to really help sell the third act more.
Sadako touches on viral videos and their power over both its content creators and its audience through Kazuma, whose need for growth leads down a dangerous path for him. With this, the film does show a knack of being current, but spends precious time on video fails rather than establishing the closeness between Mayu and Kazuma instead.
There’s some incredibly creepy imagery and some excellent use of line of sight to create scares, however, that does do a solid job of building tension in key scenes. These moments help bolster the less captivating moments, Nakata taking classic Ringu vibes and visuals and making them a still viable way to create chills. These go a long way to help the film.
But it comes as not quite enough to fully find a spot as a new horror great. Sadako will find itself as a potentially intriguing new entry for Ringu and Japanese horror fans, but may prove too slight for its genre to be completely fulfilling.
Sadako is the Opening Film for Fantasia International Film Festival on July 11th. Its North American theatrical release is currently pending, after opening in Japan in May.