Everyone’s favourite television crawling ghoul is back in “Sadako 2”, the second in the new “Ringu” franchise, director Hanabusa Tsutomu following up his 2012 reboot with more of the same. Again shot in 3D, the film draws from rather than being actually based upon Suzuki Kôji’s original novels, taking the cursed video concept in a different direction and attempting to expand the mythology behind its long haired villainess.
The film is set five years after the events of its predecessor, with Akane (Ishihara Satomi) now expecting a child with her boyfriend Takenori (Seti Koji). Unfortunately, she dies giving birth, and the task of caring for her daughter Nagi falls to Takenori’s 24-year-old sister Fuko (Takimoto Miori, “Higanjima”) after he finds himself blaming the child for her death. With Nagi now aged four, strange things start to happen and people start dying in mysterious circumstances, leading Fuko to suspect a sinister link between her and Sadako.
Like his first film, Hanabusa Tsutomu’s “Sadako 2” is in terms of approach and feel a very different proposition to Nakata Hideo’s 1998 original, and viewers shouldn’t expect the same kind of nihilistic dread and baleful slow burn scares. It does however resemble Nakata’s 2005 Hollywood sequel “The Ring Two”, at least in terms of its central creepy kid focused premise, which basically revolves around the question as to whether or not Nagi is Sadako’s daughter or has been possessed by her in some manner. Though it’s a plot which has been done before, it’s handled interestingly, and there’s enough going on to make for a moderately involving story with a few surprises along the way to its entertainingly odd ending.
Fuko makes for a decent protagonist, coming complete with her own skeletons in the closet after seeing her mother kill herself, and subplots involving her psychiatrist and a police investigation help to keep the film moving during its brisk and efficient hour and a half running time. It’s a fairly dark affair in places, dealing with suicide and madness, and while this can feel a little at odds with some of its sillier elements, the film benefits from at least trying to add a little depth and emotion.
Though it’s not particularly frightening, the film does pack in plenty of supernatural action, with Sadako or her influence claiming a fair number of victims and causing a respectable amount of havoc. Creative death scenes are the order of the day, and Hanabusa Tsutomu does a solid job of handling the set pieces, with enough flashes of nastiness to give the film a moderate edge and threat. Sadako is obviously the main draw here, and the film makes good use of her iconic presence, more so than in the first “Sadako 3D”, which went a little too far in its wackiness. Whereas Nakata’s films tended to have a bleak and grounded look, Hanabusa’s franchise outings are far glossier, with much more of a reliance on special effects and computer generated imagery. This isn’t really a bad thing, and there are some fun and imaginative moments scattered throughout, the 3D never feeling too blatant or offensive.
Whilst there’s nothing ground breaking here and nothing that’s really up to the level of Nakata’s classic, “Sadako 2” is a perfectly acceptable piece of commercial J-horror that should please fans of the series. Certainly, it’d be nice to see someone do something truly different with Sadako and the whole cursed video concept, which itself still feels relevant and intriguing some 16 years later, though to his credit Hanabusa Tsutomu continues to make this new incarnation of the franchise feel at least vaguely worthwhile.
Tsutomu Hanabusa (director) / Kôji Suzuki (based on the novel by)
CAST: Satomi Ishihara … Akane Ayukawa
Miori Takimoto … Fûko Andô
Kôji Seto … Takanori Ando
Kokoro Hirasawa … Nagi