Directed by Tsutomu Hanabusa
Distributed by Well Go USA
In 1998 director Hideo Nakata adapted Kôji Suzuki’s novel Ring, thereby unleashing the evil known as Sadako Yamamura on the world as we know it. Since then we’ve had sequels, a prequel, a remake, a sequel to the remake, a TV show in Japan, various Korean versions… I can go on and on. The last time we saw Sadako up on the cinema screen was in the American sequel The Ring Two when she was known as Samara. Despite some lesser efforts here and there, the movie was pretty damned abysmal and considered by many to be the worst in the Ring film franchise. Not even Hideo Nakata’s directing chops could save that one. Years later we’re all still haunted by that CG deer. The series had hit a crippling low, and it quietly disappeared.
With Sadako 3D director Tsutomu Hanabusa has managed to do the unthinkable: He found a way to make a movie that is actually worse than The Ring Two.
The flick follows a new curse video (the original obviously died with VHS) created by a scorned airbrush artist named Kiyoshi Kashiwada (Yamamoto) who’s angry about getting negative reviews about his artwork on his blog. Yes, you read that correctly. So what does he do? He comes up with a half-baked video of himself “dying” via apparent suicide and streams it on the internet, making him the last victim of the grainy creepy video we all know and love, and is never seen in this movie. Before he croaks, he utters something along the lines of doing this all as a means to resurrect “S,” who is obviously Sadako. The video is removed from the server after his death but appears almost out of nowhere once someone starts searching for it online. The legend behind the video is that if you watch it, you will commit suicide just like its star.
Enter a schoolteacher by the name of Akane Ayukawa (Ishihara). Her students start dying one by one because they searched for and eventually found the new “curse video” depicting Kashiwada in the throes of his demise. Death is pretty instantaneous upon watching so there’s no need to worry about that whole nagging seven days thing from every other version of the story. Why bother, right? We live in the time of super quick internet connections. Death should be as fast as the stream delivering said video. If not, you should call your local internet provider and complain.
In any event these deaths are not suicides at all, but the work of Sadako, who immediately comes to claim her victims as a means to find one whose body she can possess for some unknown reason that’s never explained. We bet you can’t guess who that turns out being.
In a nutshell that’s the story, and believe me, I’ve gone to great lengths to make it sound like it all makes sense, but it really doesn’t. There are plenty of subplots which go nowhere surrounding Kashiwada, inept cops (one of which turns up later in the film wearing a Sadako fright wig for no apparent reason), weird butterflies, and of course Akane’s students. I’ve chosen to ignore them so you can watch this spectacle for yourself should you choose to.
For fans of the series like myself, Sadako 3D can be downright infuriating to watch. The 3D (which is included on the Blu-ray version only) is some of the worst gimmicky shit I’ve seen in ages and does nothing but distract you. See that image on the box of Sadako reaching out to grab ya? Get used to it… you’re gonna see it countless times within the film. It’s as if the makers of this shitpile took the most iconic scene from Ring and built a whole movie around it so that you could witness it again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again. The most ludicrous part? Nearly every one of those scenes ends with glass shattering in slow motion and lingering in the air until it drops slowly to the ground. I’m not exaggerating either. You could make a drinking game out of this.
The only ties to the original series to be found here are:
The rest of the well-laid history of this character has been flushed away, making her just a caricature of her former scary self. But the powers-that-be did try to up the ante a bit in this flick by giving Sadako new powers. Not only does this supernatural scamp appear as a murderous bone-cracking spectre, in Sadako 3D she assumes the form of a giant killer hairball and – believe it or not – an alien zombie-frog creature who runs around on all fours at speeds in excess of mach 3. Think the closet monster from Poltergeist thrown into a blender with a frog (complete with lashing tongue – or in this case lashing hair), a zombie, and a Xenomorph who habitually masturbates to John Carpenter’s The Thing.
BUT WAIT… THERE’S MORE!
Not only do we get alien-zombie-frog-Sadako as the film’s chilling(!) villain reveal, WE GET DOZENS OF THEM! Apparently Kashiwada was busy in those seven days leading up to his death because now there are creatures aplenty who inexplicably explode into black moths upon being struck with anything hard (including fists), thus negating any menace that they could possibly muster while you’re not laughing at the sheer ridiculousness of the onscreen action.
There are no special features at all on either the Blu-ray or DVD except for the trailer so at the very least once this is done, it’s done.
This is a blight on the franchise and only manages to entertain through its absolute incompetence. If you’re looking for a great Far East fear fix, just watch the original Ring again. Hell, watch Ring 2 and Ring 0: Birthday. I’d even go with both American flicks over this. Sadako 3D is like having beer goggles that possess the miraculous power to make even the silliest of CG deers look absolutely terrifying.
1 out of 5
1/2 out of 5
The Housemaid Review – Love Makes the Ghost Grow Stronger
Written and directed by Derek Nguyen
Vietnamese horror films are something of a rarity due largely to pressure from the country’s law enforcement agencies that have warned filmmakers to steer clear of the genre in recent years. The country’s exposure to the industry is limited, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a handful of filmmakers out there that are passionate and determined to get their art out into the world. IFC Midnight has stepped up to the plate to shepherd writer/director Derek Nguyen’s period ghost thriller The Housemaid in hopes of getting it in front of American horror fans.
Aside from a few moments that delve into soap opera territory, Nguyen’s film is full of well-crafted scares and some surprisingly memorable scenes that sneak up at just the right times. For history buffs there’s also a lot of material to sink your teeth into dealing with French Colonial rule and mistreatment of the Vietnamese during the 1950’s. Abuse that, if you’re not careful, could lead to a vengeful spirit seeking atonement.
Desperate and exhausted after walking for miles, an orphaned woman named Linh (Kate) seeks refuge and employment as a housemaid at a large rubber plantation in 1953 French Indochina. Once hired, she learns of the dark history surrounding the property and how her mere presence has awakened an accursed spirit that wanders the surrounding woods and dark corners of the estate. Injured in battle, French officer Sebastien Laurent (Richaud) returns to preside over the manor and, unexpectedly, begins a dangerous love affair with Linh that stirs up an even darker evil.
Told in flashbacks, the abuse of workers reveals a long history of mistreatment that enshrouds the surrounding land in darkness and despair, providing ripe ground for a sinister spirit that continues to grow stronger. Once it’s revealed that the ghost has a long history with Laurent before her death, the reasons she begins to kill become more and more obvious as the death toll piles up. Using the real life history of indentured servants during Colonial rule, The Housemaid becomes more than just a self-contained ghost story, adding a good deal of depth to a story that could have just centered around a love triangle among Laurent, Linh, and the specter of Laurent’s dead wife.
Powered by desire to avenge tortured workers of the past and the anger fueled by seeing her husband in the embrace of a peasant girl, the apparition is frightening and eerily beautiful as she stalks her victims. One scene in particular showing her wielding an axe is the most indelible image to take away from the film, and other moments like it are what make The Housemaid a standout. The twisted sense of romance found in a suffering spirit scorned in death is the heart of the story even if the romance between the two living lovers winds up having more screen time.
The melodrama and underwhelming love scenes between Linh and Laurent are the least effective part of The Housemaid, revealing some of Nguyen’s limitations in providing dialogue and character moments that make us connect with these two characters as much as we do when the ghost is lurking around the frame. What does help to save the story is a well kept secret revealing a connection with the housemaid and the apparition.
Honestly, if this was an American genre film, the limitations seen in The Housemaid might cause more criticism, but seeing an emerging artist and his team out of Vietnam turn out a solid product like this leads me to highlight the good and champion the effort in hopes of encouraging more filmmakers to carry the flag. Ironically, the film is set for a U.S. remake in the near future.
The Housemaid hits select theaters, VOD, and digital platforms TODAY, February 16th.
Using the real life history of indentured servants during Colonial rule, The Housemaid becomes more than just a self-contained ghost story, adding a good deal of depth to a story that could have just centered around a love triangle.
Scorched Earth Review – Gina Carano Making Motherf**kers Pay In The Apocalypse
Starring Gina Carano, John Hannah, Ryan Robbins
Written by Bobby Mort and Kevin Leeson
Directed by Peter Howitt
Let me preface this review by stating right off the bat that I’m a huge Gina Carano fan, and will pretty much accept her in any role that she’s put in (are you going to tell her no), regardless of the structure and plausibility behind it, and while that might make me a tad-bit biased in my opinions, just accept it as that and nothing more. Now that I’ve professed my cinematic devotion to the woman, let’s dive headlong into her latest film, Scorched Earth.
Directed by Peter Howitt, the backdrop is an apocalyptic world brought on by the imminent disaster known as global warming, and the air has become toxic to intake, generally leaving inhabitants yacking up blood and other viscous liquids after a prolonged exposure, unless you’re one of the privileged that possesses a filter lined with powdered silver. Filters of water and the precious metal are in high demand, and only true offenders in this world still drive automobiles, effectively speeding up the destruction of what’s left of the planet. Carano plays Atticus Gage, a seriously stoic and tough-as-nails bounty hunter who is responsible for taking these “criminals” down, and her travels lead her to a compound jam-packed with bounties that will have her collecting riches until the end of time…but aren’t we at the end of time already? Anyway, Gage’s main opponent here is a man by the name of Thomas Jackson (Robbins) – acting as the leader of sorts to these futuristic baddies, the situation of Gage just stepping in and taking him out becomes a bit complicated when…oh, I’m not going to pork this one up for you all – you’ve got to invest the time into it just as I did, and trust me when I tell you that the film is pretty entertaining to peep.
While Carano’s acting still needs some refining, let there be no ever-loving mistake that this woman knows how to beat the shit out of people, and for all intents and purposes this will be the thing that carries her through many a picture. There are much larger roles in the future for Gina, and she’ll more than likely take over as a very big player in the industry – hey, I’m a gambling man, and I’ve done pretty well with my powers of prognostication. With that being said, the thing that does hold this picture back is the plot itself- it’s a bit stale and not overly showy, and when I look for a villain to oppose the hero, I’m wanting someone with at least a shred of a magnetic iota, and I just couldn’t latch onto anything with Robbins’ performance – his character desperately needed an injection of “bad-assness” and it hurt in that particular instance.
In the end of it all, I’d recommend Scorched Earth to fans of directionless, slam-bang wasteland pics with a touch of unrestrained violence…plus, Gina Carano is in it, so you can’t go wrong. If you’re not a fan of any of the above, feel free to skate on along to another piece of barren territory.
Looking to get your butt kicked in the apocalypse with extreme prejudice? Drive on up, and allow me to introduce you to someone who’ll be more than happy to oblige.
The Good Friend Book Review – A Slasher Story for the Facebook Generation
Written by Marcus Sabom
I’m not usually a big fan of murder mysteries, but Marcus Sabom’s novel The Good Friend has certainly done a lot to make me reconsider my stance on the genre. Sabom, who is currently turning the book into a film, appears to have a real gift when it comes to keeping the reader on the edge of their seat
Usually, if you were told that a book contains an ensemble cast of four central characters instead of one main protagonist, you’d probably lose interest right away because we tend to connect with singular point of view characters more than we do with ensembles. However, Sabom proved me wrong in this regard, because each of the four leading women in The Good Friend were such engaging people with such real problems that I never felt like there were too many characters and plot threads to keep track of.
To give a brief overview of our four principal players, we have Sarah, who wants to be in a meaningful relationship after her asshole boyfriend dumps her, Alana, a slightly older woman stuck in a loveless marriage with a manipulative husband who tries to turn her kids against her, Megan, who has to deal with crazy stalkers, and Rita, who is traumatized by a vengeful psycho named Caleb after he attempts to belittle and humiliate her.
With this being a book set in modern times, they naturally use social media to broadcast their problems to the world. Now, we all know about the dangers of chronicling every step of our lives on social media, but Sabom takes things to a whole other level. Because after the aforementioned women post about their troubles on Faceplace (which is basically Facebook, but with a name Mark Zuckerberg can’t take legal action against), a masked killer begins to permanently put an end to their man problems. Whoever the knife-wielding psycho is, he’s clearly a mutual friend of all the women, because he obviously looks at their posts.
One of the only male characters in The Good Friend who wasn’t a complete asshole was Detective Jack Miller, a cop investigating the case of the misandrous serial killer. Miller is described as occasional leaning towards antinatalism, the belief that people should stop reproducing because the human race should not continue to exist. I’ve also always believed that human beings should stop reproducing because we are beyond saving, so I’m glad that Sabom was able to tap into an area that deserves far more open discussion rather than being a social taboo.
The book itself is just under three-hundred pages in length and uses relatively large text, so most readers will probably get through the whole thing in about three days. Whilst the prose was certainly easy to digest, there were a number of errors and typos that would be painfully obstructive to most of us, the most obvious being that it confuses the phrase ‘couldn’t care less’ with ‘could care less’, which, as you know, means the exact opposite.
However, if you’re looking for a easy to digest murder mystery that will keep you guessing until the very end, The Good Friend is certainly an ideal recommendation. At the very least, the book should teach you not to make negative posts about people on Facebook or other social media sties, because a knife-wielding killer might be looking at your status.
An easy to digest slasher story that will keep you guessing until the very end, The Good Friend serves as a perfect reminder of the darker side of social media.
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