Fantasia Fest 2022: Our Review of ‘Sadako DX’

Posted in Fantasia 2022, Festival Coverage, Movies by - July 30, 2022
Fantasia Fest 2022: Our Review of ‘Sadako DX’

There are few contemporary horror movie moments as downright blood curdling as that of Sadako crawling out of the TV. Unfortunately, this has also become its own kind of curse for the ongoing Ringu cinematic universe. Struggling to figure out a way to top that iconic scene, the numerous sequels/reboots to the 1998 original film (with the exception of 2016’s dementedly amusing franchise mash-up Sadako vs. Kayako) have instead become bogged down by heaps of tedious backstory in which Sadako’s origins are endlessly hypothesized about and confusingly retconned.

So it gives me great pleasure to report that the newest entry, Sadako DX, finally paves a concrete way forward for the Ringu narrative. Yes, there’s still the quintessential cursed videotape investigation, this time undertaken by prodigiously intelligent graduate student Ayaka Ichijo (Fuka Koshiba) when her younger sister accidentally watches it and receives the dreaded death countdown phone call (now drastically shortened from 7 days to 24 hours). But instead of delving into the past yet again, Ayaka’s focus is squarely on logically deducing a new way to beat the resultant curse, especially as the video propagates online and the old “make a copy and show it to someone” method doesn’t seem to work anymore.

This isn’t the first time in the Ringu series that the tape has inevitably found its way to the internet. But whereas previous attempts never satisfactorily explored this intriguing proposition, director Hisashi Kimura shrewdly engages with the way the curse mutates through new technology, while also including a fun psychic vlogger character (played winningly by Kazuma Kawamura) as Ayaka’s sidekick and comic relief. Ayaka, meanwhile, is the strongest protagonist since the first Ringu, always using her intelligence in the face of each new obstacle instead of succumbing to typically stupid horror movie decision making.

Kimura finds several other ways to shake up the Ringu mold, like introducing new human forms for Sadako to inhabit and crafting a genuinely unnerving new cursed video that comes the closest to rivalling the creep-out factor of the original tape’s imagery. He also adds a surprising level of self-aware humour to the proceedings and shrewdly ties the story into current pandemic concerns, slyly developing a cogent metaphor for dealing with the myriad anxieties within our fraught world.

In throwing so many interesting new ideas into Sadako DX, Kimura almost seems to be forging the endgame for this franchise. And if this really turns out to be the grand finale of the Ringu series, then Sadako certainly goes back down that well with a bang. (Who am I kidding, though? She’ll be back for more…)

  • Release Date: 7/30/2022
This post was written by
After his childhood dream of playing for the Mighty Ducks fell through, Mark turned his focus to the glitz and glamour of the movies. He's covered the extensive Toronto film scene for online outlets and is a filmmaker himself, currently putting the final touches on a low-budget (okay, no-budget) short film to be released in the near future. You can also find him behind the counter as product manager of Toronto's venerable film institution, Bay Street Video.
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