SADAKO is the 2019 horror movie by Japanese horror director, Hideo Nakata. He’s the one who directed the Japanese movie Ringu that made Japanese horror an international success. This is the opening film at Fantasia 2019. Read our Sadako review here.
Sadako is the 2019 version of a horror movie that might feel familiar. It’s directed by the legendary Japanese horror director, Hideo Nakata, who made Japanese horror a worldwide phenomenon with Ringu and Dark Water. Both were remade in the US later on, but both the originals and remakes have been quite successful.
Back when Ringu came out, it screened at the Fantasia film festival before it became a huge hit. That’s why Hideo Nakata is back with Sadako where the movie is now opening the Fantasia 2019 film festival.
And yes, the title of Sadako does refer to the iconic character from Ringu.
Read our full Sadako review below!
The star of Ringu is back
When you watch Sadako, several elements will no doubt feel familiar. After all, Sadako is back and is still dressed in white with her long black hair covering her face. She’s not crawling as much as she is dragging herself around, but otherwise, it does feel quite familiar.
The innovation this time around is the fact that Sadako is now creating havoc via a YouTuber (or a streaming video wannabe-star, since YouTube isn’t mentioned). For me, this feels about ten years too late and has already been done in various ways. And better!
This includes being a plot point in Truth or Dare (2018), so it felt like this movie had been sitting on a shelf for a while.
Frankly, I miss the good old VHS tape. Don’t worry though, there is a glorious throwback to this, which was probably the highlight for me. The horror elements were not what I expected, but maybe I’m just jaded and wanted something more.
©2019 “Sadako” Film Partners
A master of Japanese horror
Some might call Hideo Nakata the master of Japanese horror, but honestly, his movies never rocked my world. Don’t get me wrong, I watched Ringu and Dark Water when they came out.
I actually preferred Dark Water and enjoyed the 2002 US remake The Ring more than the original Ringu. This isn’t usually the case for me, but I felt the story was more developed for the remake, which was directed by Gore Verbinski.
Overall, the character of “Sadako” didn’t really do much for me whereas Tamara had more of a backstory in the remake. And now with this new Sadako movie, it feels like they’re just using the familiarity rather than bring something more (or new) to the table.
Even though I generally prefer psychological horror over the kind that features torture and gore, I much preferred the style of Takashi Miike. He directed Audition (1999), which came out the year after Ringu, and also Ichi the Killer (2001). Both have a lot more grit and detail that I felt lacked from the Ringu universe.
Still, I was hoping Sadako would change that after years of having a break from this (admittedly!) iconic Japanese horror character. Instead, it felt like a one-trick-pony being pulled out for yet another show. And it never even felt scary, which I definitely did feel Ringu was.
Watch Sadako if you loved Ringu
There is definitely something to be said for nostalgia, so if you loved Ringu then you should watch Sadako as soon as you can. I was never crazy about the original Ringu, which might explain why Sadako didn’t do much for me.
Personally, I will still say that in the case of Sadako, I simply didn’t care for the story. It was sloppy and just felt off. I mean, for one, a young girl is in the hospital but seems very much left to her own devices. Also, when the police question her, they quickly become very aggressive when she doesn’t answer their questions. Even though she hasn’t been speaking at all.
Just dumb little elements like these are enough to ruin the overall viewing experience for me. The movie is based on a novel by Kôji Suzuki (just like Ringu), but the screenplay for Sadako wasn’t written by Hiroshi Takahashi like Ringu was. Instead, the screenplay for Sadako was written by Noriaki Sugihara, who has written more in the comedy and drama genres than horror.
Then again, Noriaki Sugihara did also write co-write the screenplay for Sadako 3D 2 (2013) which is a sequel to Sadako 3D. And yes, that is a 3D movie based on the same story. Again, I really hope Japanese horror will move on from this one horror villain even though I understand the allure since horror franchises are a goldmine.
Sadako is being screened at Fantasia 2019 after it premiered in its native Japan on May 24, 2019.
Director: Hideo Nakata
Writers: Noriaki Sugihara (screenplay), Kôji Suzuki (novel)
Stars: Himeka Himejima, Elaiza Ikeda, Ren Kiriyama
A young girl with amnesia is admitted to a Tokyo hospital’s psychiatric wing. Raised in secrecy, she barely managed to survive a fire started by her mother who, because of the former’s telekinetic powers, believed her to be the reincarnated Sadako. Psychologist Mayu Akikawa quickly grows fond of her, seeing herself reflected in her solitary past, a lifetime of loneliness. Meanwhile, Mayu’s brother Kazuma, a producer of absurd online videos, attempts to boost his viewership by broadcasting an excursion into the burned ruins of the girl’s house, when he suddenly disappears. Alarmed by the last-seen images of her only family and by several supernatural events linking her new patient to Sadako’s curse, Mayu sets off in search of Kazuma.