Tsutomu Hanabusa resurrects the Ring franchise with this latest entry in the ongoing saga of tortured ghost Sadako. Where Hideo Nakata created a moody, spooky and (at the time, at least) very fresh feeling ghost story, Hanabusa has instead handed in a ham-fisted mess of a picture, one ripe with horrible CGI and tacky attempts at catering to the 3-D crowd. What was once a franchise to look forward to has become, with this latest picture, a bit of a joke.
The story revolves around Kiyoshi Kashiwada (Yusuke Yamamoto), an airbrush artist who posts some of his art on his blog. When he gets a bunch of negative comments, he becomes freakishly upset and commits suicide... but he makes sure to record his death on video, making an innocuous comment before he shuffles off this mortal coil about how his actions are intended to resurrect â€˜S.' Can you figure out who â€˜S' is? Yes you can. At any rate, his suicide video becomes very popular on different streaming sites and despite the fact that it gets taken down, it never seems particularly difficult to find.
Enter ultra-foxy school teacher Akane Ayukawa (Satomi Ishihara) who becomes understandably concerned when a bunch of her students start dying off after searching out, finding and watching Kashiwada's death video. It seems that his attempts to bring back Sadako, the vengeful ghost who made life difficult for people in the original Ring movies, was more successful than he could have ever hoped for. Not only is she back, but she's seemingly more powerful than ever: where you once had seven days to pass on the curse after watching the original video, you know more or less kick the bucket right after viewing Kashiwada's version. At any rate, as it turns out Sadako isn't running around killing people for no reason, in fact, she's looking for a host body of some sort so that she can possess that body and doâ€¦ something. Of course, it's up to Akane to stop all this but she'll have some help from her boyfriend Takanori (Koji Seto) and a pair of cops who don't seem to be particularly effective.
Okay, first things first: in Hanabusa's defense, it makes sense to update the mythos established in the earlier films for modern day audiences. VHS is now a niche collector's format and not the mainstream home video medium that it once was. So transitioning the method of â€˜infection' from tape to streaming video does seem to be a logical conclusion. As to why death from the streaming video version seems instant as opposed to delayed for seven days as originally established is never explained, and there we start with some of the many problems that this movie has going for it and which are also never properly explained. Why does a cop show up dressed in a Sadako wig? Why does Sadako turn into moths? Why is there a small army of Sadako creatures running around after Kashiawa's demise spooking everyone? What exactly does Sadako want to do with a host body if she actually manages to get one? Why the need to cram all of these completely unnecessary and seemingly completely irrelevant plot devices into this movie?
Well, the simple answer isâ€¦ 3-D. Some of these ideas allow for Hanabusa to make stuff fly at the screen, the obvious example being that anytime one of the Sadako creatures appears it lunges towards the camera and anytime said creature is hit with something hard enough to have an impact, it bursts into moths that fly quickly and suddenly at the camera. So this picture does manage to cram in the requisite â€˜3-D stuff' into its running time but really, outside of that, this is an illogical mess of a movie. The acting is fine, the cinematography is actually very good and the use of sound is impressive but these technical accomplishments are brushed aside from rampant CGI of the most obvious kind, which serves only to take us completely out of the moment. And those plot threadsâ€¦ they never tie up the way they should. Characters pop in and out with little reason, storylines just float off into the sky without any sort of ramification and in the end it's fairly painful to sit through. There are moments that are unintentionally funny, so there's that, but if you're looking for anything remotely resembling the well-crafted and genuinely scary horror of the original film, or even the passably entertaining sequels. Where we once had atmosphere and impending doom we know have cheap jump scares and the end result is a huge, pointless and disappointing movie.
Sadako is presented on Blu-ray in both 2-D and 3-D versions on the same 50GB Blu-ray disc. Both versions are given the AVC encoded 1080p high definition treatment and are framed at 1.85.1 widescreen. There are some mild compression artifacts in some of the darker scenes on the 2D version but outside of that the image is alright. Detail is nice, colors are reproduced very well and skin tones look good though it's not hard to spot some mosquito noise here and there and crush can be an issue from time to time resulting in very mediocre shadow detail. Without a 3D TV handy, it's impossible to say what the 3D version looks like, but the 2-D version looks good - though not great.
Japanese and English language options are provided in DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio with optional subtitles available in English only. The Japanese lossless option track is a good one, it's fairly aggressive and sounds pretty solid. There are some nice directional effects used throughout the movie and bass response is tight and strong. The film makes frequent use of stings and jump scares to get some cheap reactions out of viewers but the mix handles these moments well and will take you by surprise.
Extras? We get 2-D and 3-D versions of the movie, a trailer for the feature, menus and chapter selection. That's it.
Well Go USA have done a fine job on the audio and video here. The movie looks and sounds very good on Blu-ray, there's little room for complaint in that regard. As to the movie itself? That's a completely different story. The story takes a concept that was once unique, original and frightening and turned it into a bizarre, almost cartoonish parody of itself. The movie is not scary, it's not tense and it's not good. This is a disjoined mess of a movie, one that most will want to avoid. Skip it.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.