The Curse of THE RING Lives On with SADAKO 3D
A cursed video floats online,
All who watch it will die,
They must not be revived,
The last thing that can be heard,
Fourteen years after THE RING (リング Ringu, 1998) launched a J-Horror boom that drew worldwide attention, Sadako Yamamura and her deadly curse are back in SADAKO 3D (貞子３Ｄ). The new film is based on S (エス), the latest novel by author Koji Suzuki. Kadokawa will unleash both movie and book in Japan on Saturday, May 12th.
The franchise began with Suzuki’s novel Ring (リング, Ringu), first published in 1991 by Kadokawa Shoten, and continued with Spiral (らせん, Rasen, 1995), Loop (ループ, Ruupu, 1998) and the short story collection Birthday (バースデイ, Baasudei, 1999). 1
Ring was first brought to the screen as a made-for-TV movie of the same name, premiering August 11, 1995 on Fuji Television. A ratings hit, the television movie was soon released on video and given a limited theatrical run in an extended version — featuring additional gore and nudity — entitled RING: THE COMPLETE EDITION (リング 完全版, Ringu: Kazenaban).
The success of RING: THE COMPLETE EDITION convinced Asmik Ace Entertainment to license theatrical rights for both Ring and Spiral. Director Hideo Nakata (DARK WATER, L: change the worLd) and screenwriter Hiroshi Takahashi were tapped for THE RING while Joji Iida, screenwriter of RING: THE COMPLETE EDITION, directed THE SPIRAL (らせん, Rasen). The two films were released together as a double feature on January 31, 1998.
THE RING captivated and terrified Japanese audiences… but those same audiences proved to be thoroughly unimpressed with THE SPIRAL. The following year, producer Takshige Ichise brought the Nakata/Takahashi team back for THE RING 2 (リング2, Ringu 2, 1999), a direct sequel to THE RING that completely ignored the events of THE SPIRAL. Takahashi also adapted the screenplay for RING 0- BIRTHDAY (リング0 バースデイ, Ringu 0: Baasudei, 2000), the well-regarded prequel directed by Norio Tsuruta.2 Between the last two films, the franchise returned to television with the 12 episode series RING: THE FINAL CHAPTER (リング ～最終章～, Ringu ~Saishuu-sho~, 1999) and its 13 episode follow-up, SPIRAL (らせん, Rasen, 1999).
Much like Sadako’s curse, the franchise evolved and expanded into new territories. Six months after THE RING 2 opened in Japan, South Korean moviegoers got THE RING VIRUS (링(링 바이러스), Ring (Ring baireoseu), 1999), a co-production between Kadokawa and the Korean studio AFDF. A much larger production was Dreamworks’ American adaptation THE RING (2002), directed by Gore Verbinski (PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN) and starring Naomi Watts (KING KONG). The remake was a critical and box office smash that took in nearly $250 million worldwide and quickly inspired a sequel of its own. Despite being directed by Hideo Nakata, THE RING TWO (2005) failed to match the success of its predecessor. The promotional campaign for THE RING TWO included the short film RINGS (2005) by director Jonathan Liebesman (WRATH OF THE TITANS).
Shortly before the release of the US remake of THE RING, the Japanese series was symbolically laid to rest with a Tokyo funeral service for Sadako. But that decision did not last long… by 2006 Koji Suzuki was working on the screenplay for RING 4: SPIRAL (リング4 らせん) — once again based on his second book — while Hideo Nakata discussed the possibilty of adapting the remaining novel with RING 5: LOOP (リング5 ループ). Neither project went beyond the earliest stages of development.
The US rights to THE RING went to Paramount Pictures when the studio ended their partnership with Dreamworks. In 2010, Paramount announced that screenwriter David Loucka (DREAM HOUSE) was attached to write THE RING 3D for a 2012 release. In April 2012, studio president Adam Goodman told The Hollywood Reporter that the next American version of THE RING would now likely be handled by Paramount’s budget label, Insurge Pictures, which has had great success with the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY series.
With a potential American revival of THE RING on the horizon, the series has now returned to Japan with SADAKO 3D. In the film, all-girls high school teacher Akane Aikawa hears from her students about an online video that reportedly shows a man committing suicide. According to rumors, anyone who watches the video will also be driven to kill themselves. Akane dismisses the talk as nothing more than an urban legend, but then her pupil Noriko dies. Soon there is a string of student deaths. The police determine all are typical teen suicides, ignoring talk that all of the victims had seen the video.
Believing that the authorities have not fully investigated the matter, Akane asks her boyfriend, web designer Takanori Ando, to help her uncover the background of the mysterious internet video. Their search eventually leads them to Kiyoshi Kashiwada, the man in the original suicide video. Kashiwada’s plan was to incite worldwide chaos by reviving Sadako Yamamura. Akane and Takanori must figure out a way to stop Sadako and Kashiwada before it is too late…
SADAKO 3D is directed by Tsutomu Hanabusa, who made his feature film debut with Asmik Ace’s comedy THE HANDSOME SUIT (ハンサム★スーツ, Hansamu Sutsu, 2008). Hanabusa also co-wrote the screenplay with Yoshinobu Fujioka (TOMIE REBIRTH). SADAKO 3D is the director’s first horror film.
The movie stars Satomi Ishihara (ZATOICHI: THE LAST, THE INCITE MILL) as Akane Ayukawa, the teacher who holds the key to Sadako’s return. Ishihara said, “When I read the story of SADOKO 3D for the first time I recalled the fear created by THE RING. It is the most popular Japanese horror in the world and I’m pleased to be involved with this film. Excellent special effects and CG will be used in the film so I’m looking forward to seeing it. I’m sure it will be a new type of horror movie in that you see the beauty inside the fear.”
Koji Seto plays Akane’s boyfriend, Takanori Ando. Seto previously played the lead role of Wataru Kurenai in the MASKED RIDER KIVA (仮面ライダーキバ, Kamen Raidaa Kiva, 2008) television series as well as the theatrical spin-offs MASKED RIDER DEN-O & KIVA (劇場版 仮面ライダー電王＆キバ クライマックス刑事（デカ）, Kamen Raidaa Den-O & Kiva: Climax Deka, 2008), MASKED RIDER KIVA THE MOVIE: KING OF THE CASTLE IN THE DEMON WORLD (劇場版 仮面ライダーキバ 魔界城の王, Gekijooban Kamen Raidaa Kiba Makaijoo no Oo, 2008), and KAMEN RIDER DOUBLE & DECADE: MOVIE WAR 2010 (仮面ライダー×仮面ライダー Ｗ（ダブル）＆ディケイド ＭＯＶＩＥ大戦２０１０, Kamen Raidaa × Kamen Raidaa: Daburu ando Dikeido Mubi Taisen Nisenjuu, 2009). He has also appeared in the J-Horror film JU-ON: BLACK GHOST (呪怨 黒い少女, Ju-on: Kuroi Shoujo, 2009).
“THE RING was a fresh style of movie that maintained the feel of Japanese horrors, which slowly build the fear, while capturing the grotesque aspects of Hollywood horror films,” Seto said. “It’s scary to see Sadako emerge from a TV screen, so I can’t wait to see what it will be like to see her on the big screen.” He added, “Akane is very straightforward and has an inner strength. But Takanori comes across a just a friendly guy, until the opportunity arises for him to show his dependable side.”
The role of the evil Kiyoshi Kashiwada was performed by Yusuke Yamamoto. The actor got his start as Tsurugi Kamishiro/Kamen Rider Sasword in MASKED RIDER KABUTO (仮面ライダーカブト, Kamen Raidaa Kabuto, 2006) and starred in the television series and feature film versions of OURAN HIGH SCHOOL HOST CLUB (桜蘭高校ホスト部, Ooran Kookoo Hosuto Kurabu, 2011). His other film credits include MW (MW-ムウ-, 2009) and NINJA KIDS!!! (忍たま乱太郎, Nintama Rintaro, 2011).
Having traditionally played “good guy” roles, Yamamoto was initially dubious when offered the part of Kashiwada. “It was difficult for me to grasp the concept that I would be playing a villain in a horror movie,” he recalled. “I couldn’t sympathize with this character at all, so I played him as someone with no sense of empathy. While this is a horror movie, shooting it was a lot of fun. I’m looking forward to SADAKO 3D as the continuation of THE RING.”
The Japanese rock band SID performs the theme song for SADAKO 3D. Entitled “S”, the single will be released on May 9th. Additional promotions for the film have included Sadako throwing out the first pitch before a baseball game between the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters and the Chiba Lotte Marines at the Tokyo Dome on April 25th. Kadokawa has also partnered with Sanrio for a line of SADAKO × HELLO KITTY (貞子3D×ハローキティ) products featuring the popular kitten as Sadako.
2. The four Japanese RING films were released on Region 1 DVD by Dreamworks as the RINGU: ANTHOLOGY OF TERROR collection.↩