The new entry in the Ringu/Sadako series, “Sadako,” sees the return of original director Hideo Nakata to the franchise, but alas there is almost too much restraint on their part for this outing.
While the new film structurally still follows a similar path to the first two films there is no longer the conceit of the cursed video that must be passed on; rather Sadako now seems to act as some kind of patron saint of abused children, making a connection to another child whose parent has kept them locked up. When the child escapes unscathed from a burning building she is brought to the psych ward where she meets Dr. Akikawa (Elaiza Ikeda), a fellow orphan. Akikawa’s brother Kazuma, meanwhile, is a student dropout who yearns to become a streaming/vlog star, ultimately doing some dodgy Logan Paul antics like entering the burnt-out building where five people died, thus coming into contact with Sadako and promptly disappearing.
Nakata has a warmer palette here than his cold hues in the first two “Ringu” films, and the unnamed little orphan girl has some “Carrie”-ish psychokinetic abilities to her, but the true horrortastic power of Sadako is deployed in what should be showstopping sequences that unfortunately stop short of being great. Nakata’s still great at mood and imagery (few can do an ominous ocean at night as he can) but corrupted Youtube videos kind of pale in comparison to TVs that turn on themselves. The “Blair Witch”-style handheld of Kazuma could have been used more as a new aesthetic, but only gets deployed once.
Ultimately even the emotions get scrimped, as not enough of the sibling relationship is really established for it to be particularly meaningful. More sequences of them as child orphans, perhaps.
While Nakata returning is still the most interesting thing to happen to the franchise in a while, it still isn’t enough to hit the high notes that made a mark on the horror landscape two decades ago.