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FILM REVIEW: Sadako3 min read

30 May 2019 3 min read


FILM REVIEW: Sadako3 min read

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Mayu Akigawa, a psychology counselor, gets involved with the curious case of a young girl who seems disturbed. Around the same time, Mayu’s younger brother Kazuma Akigawa goes missing and his friend Yusuke Ishida helps Mayu find him. In their search, they come across clues that lead them straight into the haunted territory of Sadako.

Director: Hideo Nakata
Year: 2019
Cast: Elaiza Ikeda, Takashi Tsukamoto, Hiroya Shimizu, Himeka Himejima, Renn Kiriyama, Rie Tomosaka
Language: Japanese with English and Chinese subtitles
Runtime: 98 min
Rating: PG13

Review by Nadia Alang

We are all familiar with Hideo Nakata’s Ringu (The Ring) (1998), be it from the American remake or the series and sequels that followed. The horrifying image of the creature that crawls out of a well and into our faces is brought back to mind with the recently-released Sadako. Unfortunately, every expectation of a good scare that preceding Ring films evoke falls flat quite quickly with this one.

It begins quite promisingly with the perfect set-up – creepy music, creepy dolls, creepy house and, as though an attempt to avoid falling too far into the trap of clichés, a creepy cave on a deserted island. The mystery of this cave (literally) opens up into a decently written plot that seem to only dance around the surface of the begging question – who, or what, is Sadako?

The wide-eyed and compassionate Mayu is a counsellor who lands on the case of a quiet little girl haunted by a disturbing childhood. As her story unravels, it sheds more light on the answers to our questions only to leave us with more. This is saved by the impressive performance by Himeka Himiejima as the little girl, whose facial expressions and death glare gave me the chills. Add to that the classic dress-and-doll get-up reminiscent of creepy little girls in films like The Shining, her performance justified why this horror film trope has lived on for so long.

The plot does stay true to the classic style of a modern horror film with its subtle nod at the dread of technology. Internet celebrity-wannabe Kazuma Akigawa films himself exploring forbidden territories in the pursuit of viewers and his silly antics are a good light-hearted counter to the otherwise gloomy mood. His exploration is executed well, taking us into an interesting revelation of how Sadako ties in with the little girl. In a manner reminiscent of supernatural classics like The Blair Witch Project, the dim lighting and shaky camera does stir up the thrill.

Tying together the threads of Mayu’s case, Kazuma’s disappearance, and the story of Sadako is no easy feat and the film does this neatly enough to make sense. However, it leaves behind too many loopholes and the abruptly-inserted horror fillers can’t distract us long enough from them. By themselves however, these fillers were fairly unnerving with the sound effects keeping us in suspense.

Film critic Liam Lacey once said that when a horror film is original, it is not good and when it is good, it is not original. I could not think of a better way to describe Sadako – the commendable parts about it had already been done before. Even though originality is a good thing, Sadako left me pretty underwhelmed when it tried to be.

Catch Sadako in theatres from 30th May here.

An optimistic pessimist. A cynical believer. And a careful dreamer. Basically the moron in oxymoron but sometimes I say things just for pun.
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