Mayu Akikawa is a young psychologist, awkwardly trying to find her bearings in a new hospital, when she is assigned a nameless young girl as her first patient. A recently orphaned victim of extreme mental and physical abuse, the “Mysterious Girl” forms an instant bond with Mayu after the doctor defends her against other bullying kids in the ward, and over inquisitive, prodding officials.
The circumstances surrounding the child are morbid and tragic. Her mother, after keeping her locked away to the point that neighbors weren’t even aware she had a daughter, had decided to immolate them both. While the girl survived, she has little to no memory of the details, or clues as to a motive, all recollection being wiped by shock.
Meanwhile, Mayua’s goofy brother, Kazuma, a game design school dropout turned struggling social media star, decides he needs to up his game to enhance his viewership. When he lights on investigating a the fire destroyed apartment for his show, the circle of coincidence begins to tighten.
Soon, Kazuma is missing, and Mayu is searching for her only living family member.
Digging up his last posted video, in which he takes us deep into the charred dwelling, Mayu catches a glimpse of a mysterious image hidden in what looks like a glitch, and this franchise being what it is, well…things begin unfolding as expected. The curse of Sadako is released upon a new generation of device obsessed consumerists, with potentially apocalyptic results.
Is Mayu’s nameless patient, who is progressively exhibiting signs of telekinetic power, the solution to the re-awakened ring of terror? Or is she it’s cause?
To be honest, I opted out of the Ringu franchise after the second offering, one movie before Hideo Nakata’s last effort, Ring 0: Birthday (2000). I loved Ringu 2 and its turn into genre mashing, bringing a strong dose of procedural science fiction, evoking films like the Quatermass series, the final third of the brilliant The Entity, and even odder connective tissue like The Andromeda Strain.
course the original Ringu, which many would argue is beyond reproach, is and one of the most iconic Japanese films in the minds of international film fans. Going far beyond genre, at times Ringu reaches culture changing levels of recognizable iconography, from the red title card over the swirling black waters surrounding Oshima island, or the mottled upside down eye, to the Dada-esque static- filled television screen, now rendered an image of abject terror.
This is all a lot for a sequel to live up to.
Taken on it’s own merits, Sadako has occasional moments that are truly effective. When Mayu uncovers a deleted video of her brother Kazuma, creeping through the destroyed apartment with his camera, slowly uncovering a deeper mystery, is a scene that will potentially have me revisiting this for fun at some point.
Overall, Sadako embraces a more mystical approach this time out, favoring dark fantasy over wide-eyed terror, which can be problematic and a little confusing if too much attention is paid to the previous installments. Sadako’s intent is not always clear, and a lot of the narrative ties in the film become muddled because of this. While this can leave a viewer befuddled, it’s not necessarily that important, Sadako and her curse are more of a framework to set up the Carrie/Audrey Rose like scenario of a little girl with powers she does not understand, and cannot control (played quite effectively by newcomer Himeka Himejima), rather than serve as a Freddy Krueger-like antagonist.
Is it worth your time? If you like the franchise, of course. It takes a lot of suspension of disbelief and embracing of what we will kindly call nightmare logic to buy into this one, but taken as a disposable tone poem, a cinematic snack, Sadako will do nicely on a Saturday night with a few beers.
Last, it is worth mentioning there is a brilliant tie in to the first film, and one I didn’t know I’d been waiting for twenty-plus years to see, that did indeed make my prior relationship to the original particularly rewarding. Say no more.