Review by Sean Boelman
Sadako, the supernatural antagonist of the Ringu series and its American remakes, is unquestionably one of the most recognizable and terrifying monsters in horror movie history. Sadako DX attempts to revitalize the property for a modern generation and does so in a mostly intriguing way, even if it does lose its steam more than once.
The film follows a young woman who seeks to unravel the mystery behind a cursed video that kills people 24 hours after they watch it when her younger sister watches the video for fun. It’s interesting to see a movie take the basic premise of the Ringu films and deconstruct them in a way that is genuinely intelligent.
Although the third American movie based on the property, Rings, had tried to bring the Sadako concept into the social media generation, it failed miserably at doing so. Sadako DX fares much better, asking some interesting questions about our online behaviors, although it doesn’t offer any compelling answers.
This is billed as a horror-comedy, and while there are certainly some satirical elements, it never feels like it is in service of humor. But it does create that sense of overwhelming dread for which the series has come to be known. Of course, there are also some effective jump scares spread throughout, but it is the atmosphere that works wonders for the film.
That said, the movie does suffer from what seems to be budget constraints. The effects are sometimes lackluster, and in a distracting way not a charming one. In what could have been some of the most disturbing scenes, the effects end up causing the scares to have far less of an impact.
The character development could have also used some work. Had the movie gone all-in with the satirical elements, having characters that are embodiments of the stereotypes and archetypes of modern day horror movies could have created some solid laughs, but here, it ends up feeling shallow.
Still, the actors manage to do the most with what they are given. Fuka Koshiba carries the film pretty well despite the fact that the role isn’t all that meaty. And while the character design for this new version of Sadako isn’t the best, the physical performances that went into bringing the character to life are pretty impressive.
For the most part, Sadako DX takes the property in an interesting new direction. There are some portions that could have been a bit sharper, and the effects are hit-or-miss, but it’s generally smarter than many of the Ringu sequels we have been given in the past decades, and that makes it a treat for J-horror fans.
Sadako DX screened at the 2022 Fantasia International Film Festival, which runs July 13 through August 3.