A young pathologist seeks answers to the mysterious death of a friend and soon comes into contact with the same cursed videotape that caused the death of the friend's wife and son, which is haunted by the curse of Sadako, a relentless spirit.
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The prequel to the horror film Ringu, this movie provides the background story of how Sadako later became the vengeful murdering spirit. The story starts with her as a shy, somewhat withdrawn, college student who nonetheless gets involved in a drama club. The director thinks she has talent, but some of the other performers start to get jealous of the attention he gives her. Meanwhile, a reporter investigating Sadako's spiritualist mother thinks there's something very suspicious about the young woman, and arrives on campus to confront Sadako just as a series of strange deaths start sweeping through the drama club. Written by
Jean-Marc Rocher <email@example.com>
After the disappointment of a still decent "Ring 2", "Ring 0 : Birthday" is a return to form. Yukie Nakamo does a wonderful job of portraying the tragic final days of Sadako's attempt at a normal life. The sweet, innocent side of her was never suspected when I first glimpsed the malevolent presence of Sadako in the first installment. Yukie is very moving in her portrayal and evokes sympathy and empathy for the character. Similarily, Daisuke Ban gives a opens up the character of Dr Ikuma from the glimpses we've seen in previous installments. Here we see a tortured and resigned man who genuinely loves Sadako as a daughter, but can't escape from the knowledge of how dangerous she is and the steps he may have to take to prevent her harming others.
Despite the main love story and drama of Sadako's attempt at a normal life, there are still plenty of creepy moments and supernatural happenings. The scenes with the school teacher relating her experiences of teaching a young Sadako are genuinely intriguing and eerie. Indeed the story of the kids swimming in the sea and Sadako's prediction of their fate, is truly gripping, despite nothing actually being shown. The excitng scenes in the woods and cabin show how deadly Sadako can be when her evil side has control. The weird appearance and way of walking from the first "Ring" is seen again here and there's some great bonesnapping moments when Sadako hunts down her final prey. These scenes and the conclusion give "Ring 0 : Birthday" the standout sequences that "Ring 2" never quite managed to sustain from the original film.
Some of the plot points do bear a resemblance to "Carrie" but the film handles them in a different way. The story, although slow paced is always enthralling (a hallmark of the "Ring" series to date) and it seems poor Sadako never really had a chance from what awaited her. Aligned against her are: an inability to control the dark powers of her alter ego, a creepy director who learns of her secret and wishes to use her, a reporter with a grudge and a suspicious and unfriendly acting troupe who never seem to have made any real attempt at welcoming the shy, withdrawn girl into their fold. Mob paranoia and fear contribute to Sadako's fate and make her the malevolent presence she is today. As the film reaches it's conclusion, you can't help but wish that things could end differently for the unfortunate lovers but anyone who's seen the previous installments, knows that there's only one place this prequel can end. The last few minutes of the film are heartbreaking and the film's end credit song beautifully encapsulates the finality of Sadako's backstory.
Don't expect too many absolute answers here though. "Ring 0 : Birthday" maintains the mystery and ambiguity of the first two films and once again, imagination is a required element from the viewer. If you enjoyed the previous films and want to see more of Sadako, this film will give you quite a thrill ride. Whether it's poignant doomed love story, another part of the Ring puzzle or an eerie and haunting Japanese ghost story, "Ring 0 : Birthday" is a winner on every level.
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