Saturday, July 13, 2019

Fantasia 2019: Sadako

As mentioned on Thursday I'll be reviewing some movies remotely again from this year's always stellar and exciting Fantasia Film Festival, which is running in Montreal right this minute all the way through August 1st. Well here's my first take from it, on the Opening Night return of a familiar... well not a face, exactly...

(C)2019 "Sadako" Film Partners
It's been just over 20 years since the scary little girl with the long black hair crawled out of that well and into our hearts with Hideo Nakata's horror classic Ringu, a film that set off the worldwide phenomenon known as J-Horror which introduced, well, many such scary little girls with long black hair to us. Japan cranked 'em out and the US remade them, always to lesser effect -- I know there are those of you who consider the American version of The Ring an essential, but I am not one of those people -- until the well ran dry of little girls, nothing but a drain clogged with hair and bad memories left in their wake.

Fast forward to 2019 and Nakata has returned to the franchise he helped give birth to with Sadako, a sequel set twenty years after the events of the first film and named after that first little girl from down the well we fell in love with -- in the 15 years since he last touched on this material (Nakata made both Ringu 2 in 199 and the American sequel The Ring Two in 2005) surely he came up with some new tricks right? In a world where we no longer need an analog cursed videotape but now carry around a YouTube full of 'em in our pockets 24/7 there's an exciting future of these films?

I'm sure my hypotheticals read as half-hearted and drearily obvious as does my answer, which is that sadly no, Nakata didn't seem to come up with much of anything to reboot the birth of Sadako and her hairy reign of horror -- besides a wink nudge at a viral video star who stumbles into the bad place Sadako the film is a rehash of greatest hits played at half-speed. Our leading lady Mayu (an admittedly charming Elaiza Ikeda) sleuths her way through horror history, dredging up stories best left buried, if only they'd stay that way.

Sadako proves resistant to the ground. It's dreary and redundant stuff, playing out a backstory of the little girl with no new surprises for anybody who vaguely recalls where this franchise has been before, treading the same dirty dank apartment complexes all over again with no new twists on old scares that have become the stuff of spoof by now. In a world where we invite human hexes into our homes via social media every minute of every day this imagination-less update is nigh unforgivable. Sadako, you crazy gal, you done deserved better.

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