Sadako, the long-haired ghost who first crawled out of a well on the silver screen in the 1998 horror hit “Ringu” (remade as “The Ring” in 2002 overseas), has since become a global pop-culture icon. One reason for this is the sheer number of films in which she has appeared, including four with her name in the title. Another is her deep roots in Japanese culture and folklore, in which vengeful female spooks have haunted imaginations for hundreds of years.
She is also something of a cliche, though, a problem Hisashi Kimura’s “Sadako DX” entertainingly addresses by mixing in sharp meta comedy with the scares. One reference point is Wes Craven’s 1996 classic, “Scream,” which comically turned tired horror tropes on their heads. This has rarely been done in the J-horror genre, whose makers tend to take their material, however banal, with deadly seriousness.
As the slew of “Scream” knock-offs proved, the wink-wink of self-referential jokes can soon get old, but “Sadako DX” keeps the life-or-death stakes high enough and the shocks unsettling enough that the audience is never completely able to settle into complacency.