Odds and Dead Ends : Lost in Translation: Sadako vs Samara

This is a topic I’ve mused upon for many years, and when the remake of Pet Sematary came out last year, featuring a ghost girl of sorts, the thoughts returned to me. Why is it that I disliked Samara in The Ring, but loved Sadako in Ringu? It couldn’t just be that one was the original whilst one was a remake. It couldn’t be that they changed the name for a western audience. It couldn’t just be the different actress. So here I’ve decided to break down the two presentations of the character from the two most well known adaptations, 1998’s Ringu, directed by Hideo Nakata, and Gore Verbinski’s 2002 remake, Ring, to try and place my discomfort.

We first have to acknowledge a difference in how we are first exposed to Sadako and Samara, which is deeply cultural in origin. Sadako’s story is given to us by having one of our protagonists experience visions of Shizuka’s psychic performances which led to her slander, suicide, and the unfolding of events around Sadako. With Samara, however, the equivalent information is revealed through a series of tapes, including some interviewing Samara about her powers. Here we see that there are some things that have been changed in the cultural translation; that the spiritual, psychic reveal has been altered for a technological one. We can reason that this is because the supernatural version would be more plausibly received in Japan than the US, where a scientific, technological explanation has been given (this is a slightly stereotypical explanation, but it seems to fit). This doesn’t change anything to do with the character, but does highlight that the changes are more than just the name.

Now we get to what we are shown in these reveals, our antagonist, and it is here that I begin to feel the difference. In Ringu, Sadako flashes, never utters a word. The journalist who calls out Shizuka for fraud keels over with a heart attack, and we have a ringing in our ears. Then, when Shizuka calls out Sadako, and we have the memory of the word ‘Sada’ on the tape, things fall into place. We still haven’t seen her. But when little Sadako runs into Asakawa, transplanted into the dream, and we see her ripped fingernails clench around her wrist, we know that something is seriously wrong, and violent.

At the well, we have another flash of a young woman (Sadako) with long hair peering into a well, before being bludgeoned and tossed inside. All without seeing her face; without hearing a word. A few minutes later we get the reveal of her skeleton, rotted away from decades in the dark, alone, having tried to claw her way out of the well. In all of this we have never heard her voice, seen her face; nothing that makes her an individual. She is a figure repressed, pent up, who has murdered four people already, and has a curse on several more. She is disembodied, silent, vengeful wrath, inhabiting a mere shell.

And this is what we see in the final, climactic scene of the film with Sadako crawling out of the television. It is slow and laborious, her kabuki-theatre-styled movements like someone unused to using their limbs, like a force possessing a body. She slowly stands, arms creaking, shuffling across the floor. You get the feeling that it doesn’t matter that she’s moving so slowly, because she’s just come out of a damn videotape. You’re dead anyway. And when her hair finally lifts, all we get is a swollen, veined, wrathful eye. No mouth, no nose, not even both eyes. Just the one, expressing all the rage and malice that has built like a brewing storm.

When we look at Samara’s presentation, what we get is a much more personal, humanised take on the character. Verbinski and writer Ehren Kruger give Samara a personality, and by giving her a voice and letting us see her face, try to create a distinct individual behind the long hair. They present us with a wronged child, instead of the repressed (and wronged by default) woman.

The trouble with this is that, in my opinion (and this is an opinion piece, let’s be fair), when you give a child a voice in a film, and especially an antagonistic child, you need to make sure that the child actually comes across as malevolent. For me, she comes across as a little annoying, and too much like a young child to feel particularly threatening.

We have the same issue seen with the original, silent Michael Myers in Halloween (Carpenter, 1978), as opposed to the remake by Rob Zombie (2007). By giving Myers a voice in his past, it strips some of the mystery away from the character, and his place, as a surrogate for evil has been replaced by a clichéd journey of a troubled child into psychopathy. For me, the same thing is present here in The Ring. These interview scenes don’t seem much different to Charlie’s incarceration in Stephen King’s Firestarter, and at least there we had Charlie as a main character for hundreds of pages beforehand, and were hoping for her escape. It’s a different take, a different look at the same character, but for me, much of the malice is taken out of Samara by attempting to present her as a person.

And in the final scene, a number of changes in how the TV-crawl is handled have been implemented. Instead of just using the television as a medium to record herself and emerge into the real world, Samara is part of the television itself, glitching and glowing as the image renders. She’s not fully part of this world anymore, but still connected to it, more of a ghost than a real, sinister presence. A downside to this is that you have to believe the CGI on Samara as well. She’s much quicker than Sadako here, out of the television in seconds, on her feet almost instantly, and teleporting across the room for a jump scare. She wants to be there and in your face, as opposed to Sadako’s wrathful judgement. It’s far more personal, as if there’s a specific grudge to bear against individuals inside Samara, whereas Sadako didn’t care because there was no humanity left; it had been hollowed out and filled back up with sheer hatred. Samara is specified revenge; Sadako is revenge personified.

The Ring also includes a Hollywood-style cross-cutting, with Rachel rushing across town to try and save Noah. I’m all for cross-cutting for tension building; it’s one of those techniques which works 80% of the time. But here it dilutes what made the original scene’s sense of inevitability. By not leaving that room whilst Sadako emerged, you were trapped in there along with Ryuji, and the slow, laborious way in which the scene played out kept you transfixed. You forgot the rest of the world existed, and focused only on the threat that had emerged before you.

Another aspect of the vocal/silent change is that we feel in the final scene that we might have a chance to reason with Samara, because we’ve seen her asking about her mother, and interacting verbally with the doctors. With Sadako, when she emerges from that TV set, you know that there’s no chance of getting out alive.

I’m of the opinion (in general), that Ringu is the superior film over The Ring, but then I’m of the opinion that Suzuki’s novel is even better than the film (seriously one of the best horror thrillers I’ve ever read). In both films we have fairly different interpretations of Sadako; a silent embodiment of sheer wrath and female repression in Japan, and a personal, paranormal grudge spilling out of control in America. With Sadako, her interpretation plays into the overall doom-laden, dark and dour atmosphere of inevitability which the film creates. In Samara, a more humanised manifestation leads to a stylised paranormal revenge story to suit a mainstream western audience.

I don’t disagree with trying what the remake attempted in Samara, because sometimes humanising a villain makes them scarier, that we know they’re human (or nearly) and can still do what they do. Here, however, was not the right time to do it. That doomy dread becomes a stylised shocker which never hits the same nerve, and Samara’s ‘can I see my mommy?’ removes all of the terror from my antagonist. The Ring isn’t an awful movie in itself, and there are certainly worse adaptations the US has done of paranormal films from Asia in the last few decades, but I’ll go back to Ringu and Sadako Yamamura over Samara Morgan all seven days of the week.

-Article by Kieran Judge

-Twitter: @kjudgemental

-I discussed the original Ring novel a few years ago in relation to M. R. James’ short story, Casting the Runes, and their handling of deadlines in horror literature. You can read it here: https://horroraddicts.wordpress.com/2018/08/06/odds-and-dead-ends-analysis-of-casting-the-runes-and-ring/

-And if, after that, you want to jump on the M. R. James wagon for more ghostly thrills, I did a recent analysis of the BBC adaptation of A warning to the curious, which you can read here: https://horroraddicts.wordpress.com/2020/06/14/odds-and-dead-ends-the-danger-of-the-future-in-a-warning-to-the-curious-by-m-r-james/

Suicide Forest and Shadeylight

23570089It’s hard to explain the human mind. Why are we drawn to places that have a history of death and that people say is cursed. Why would anyone want to go camping in a place called Suicide Forest? Perhaps it’s for a thrill or just to see a place that most people are terrified to go to. Suicide Forest by Jeremy Bates is a psychological horror story that looks at people’s fascination with death, why people commit suicide, the hardships of life, friendship and love.

The story is fairly simple, it follows a group of five people on their way to climb Mount Fuji in Japan. Their trip gets rained out, they meet two other hikers and decide to camp in Suicide Forest instead. Suicide Forest is a real place where hundreds of Japanese citizens go each year to commit suicide. The forest has a dark history, the area is considered cursed and is associated with demons in Japanese mythology. The place contains rocky caverns, trees twisted into strange formations and is absent of wildlife. The seven campers are hoping to see a ghost or perhaps a body but they get far more than they bargained for.

The thing I admired about Suicide Forest was that this is a book that didn’t have a lot of action until the end but still managed to keep me interested. I found the characters so intriguing that I couldn’t put it down. Even the characters that aren’t in the book long have fascinating back stories. This is a psychological horror story which explores some deep subjects in a horrific setting. As dark as it is it actually has some funny moments as well, such as when the campers talk about the quickest ways to die. It’s a heavy topic but even in a hard situation I felt this scene added realism because even in a life threatening situation you would make light of it to deal with the horror all around you.

This book is light on action but big on suspense. The reader is constantly left with a feeling of unease because you’re not quite sure what’s happening until the end. The only thing you know for sure is that entering the forest was a bad idea and all the characters seem to turn on each other at one point. This book made me think of The Blair Witch Project with the exception being that this takes place in what is believed to be a real haunted setting.

There were several things I loved about this book.  I liked how it looks at Japanese culture and how the setting is described. From reading this book I felt like I had visited the Suicide Forest myself. I also liked the discussions in this book on why people commit suicide, with some saying they understand it and others saying they don’t. I also loved when one of the minor characters makes a revelation about death that’s hard to disagree with. This is also reflected well in the end of the book when you see that two of the main characters are forever changed by the experience they had with one feeling one way and the other being at the opposite end of the spectrum. If you want to know what I mean read the book and find out, you won’t be disappointed.

24549934Another book I want to talk about is Shadeylight:Vella The Virgin Vegan Vampire by J.K. Elemenopy  with a little help from Kimberly Steele. This book answers the question of what would happen if 50 Shades Of Grey and Twilight were able to mate and have a love child. Shadeylight is the answer to that question and a very good parody of both best-selling books. This is a story that’s all told from a first person viewpoint of a self obsessed college age girl who wants nothing more than to protect her no no and promote the vegan lifestyle.

Vella is a proud virgin and the subject of many men’s fantasies. She attends the local community college and wants to be a writer. Everything changes when she meets billionaire Xavier Cash who just happens to be part unicorn/part vampire. Vella is not your average girl though, she has a secret that she is not fully aware of and also has split personalities. Vella constantly has to deal with her perverted inner goddess and overbearing vegan subconscious. To make matters even more complicated she has another man who is interested in her named  Jean-Pierre La Fine.

This is the kind of book that you don’t get because the story looks good, this is the kind of book you get because you think that with a title like that it has to be entertaining. Shadeylight is a pretty funny read and this is coming from a person who would never dream of reading Twilight or 50 Shades Of Grey. Despite not knowing the source material, I’ve heard enough about both books where I got all the references and all the gags.

Nothing is off-limits in this book, it makes fun of everything including a scene where one of the characters makes fun of the author of the book. It makes fun of self obsessed writers, bad writing and it looks at how hypocritical people can be. My favorite scene was when Vella and Xavier go to a  Hotties Anonymous meeting. Who knew that people who are beautiful get discriminated against because of the chronic condition of being hot. Shadeylight also has some strange sex scenes that would make 50 Shades Of Grey look like a G rated movie.

Shadeylight is more than just a goofy parody though. This is a story that is using humor to put forth a message about going vegan while showing how silly some books that are considered popular can be. At the same time it still doesn’t take itself seriously. Who can resist a book that has Bacon trolls, sex with Cthulu and a vampire with serious mommy issues. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.  Shadeylight is one bizarre read that you don’t want to miss.

 

Mimielle: One Chance at Love…NOT!!

This one is mostly for the guys..unusual for me to write but here it is!

Valentine’s day just passed, right? Think you are off the hook except for maybe her birthday if it’s still to come, right? Wrong…if she’s been reading anything about Japan!

black heart kanji love
In Japan, Valentine’s Day has morphed into something different than it is in the West, actually 2 Holidays! The bad news is that March 14th is White Day, traditionally the day for males to give chocolate and small gifts to females so be expecting her to expect something if she has mentioned this (or is reading this article) and shop and plan accordingly.

         

The good news is that you have a second chance to redeem yourself (and your romance) if you flubbed it up the first time on February 14th! Very convenient for the forgetful too, hm? Just surprise her on White Day this year like you planned it all along!

cupid is a sniper

At least the 50 Shades of Grey movie premiere IS past and that’s a good thing, right? Seems Dakota Johnson thinks so too.

Stay Beautiful, Addicts! ~Mimielle~

Mimielle’s Monday a la Mode: Ghostly Beauty and the Yuki Onna

8899_460788850657987_2067578517_nGama Gaeru and Minori

Whether is is a ghostly pallor you seek or perhaps dress of diaphanous white or grey, heavy swirls of velvet and bits of lace, wintertime needn’t be dark and dismal. It can be evocative of the light as well as the dark with some hauntingly beautiful hints from our ghostly companions.

”shironuri” (白塗り) literally means ”painted in white”. It refers to the white traditional makeup worn by geishas and stage actors.

Minori is the most well-known shironuri artist in the west and I have been a fan of she and Gama, Tsunoshit and several others for several years now. It is fascinating to watch Minori and I hope to get a chance to meet her at Anime Matsuri next year!

You can also watch Minori’s makeup tutorial below for a hands on demonstration of a shironuri makeup and styling from start to finish.

Rooted in Kabuki and Angura Kei, (Underground culture) this look can range from ghostly to downright scary as the artist only known as N.96 shows us!

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Read more about this fascinating fashion trend and it’s origins and the Monster Parties at Kawaii Kakkoii Sugoi or more in-depth at Pop Kakumei

The Yuki Onna ( 雪女 or ゆきおんな )

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Shirahime-Syo: Snow Goddess Tales – CLAMP

TRANSLATION: snow woman

HABITAT: mountain passes; anywhere there is snow
DIET: life energy; can also eat ordinary food

APPEARANCE: Yuki-onna prey on travelers lost in the heavy snowstorms that blanket the Japanese Alps in winter.

They have an otherworldly beauty, with long black hair and piercing eyes colored deep violet. Their skin is ageless and as white as snow.

Their bodies are as cold as ice, and a mere touch is enough to give a human a deep, unshakable chill.

She feeds on human life force, sucking it from their mouths into hers with an icy breath that often freezes her victims solid.

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Vita’s Boudoir

Even Second Life creators are getting frosty!

Don’t let them haunt your dreams!

Stay Beautiful, Addicts

~Mimielle

Photo credits:  Minori’s website, Facebook or the articles referenced above, at Pop KakumeiKawaii Kakkoii Sugoi, a Japanese culture online magazine, Yokai.com

Japanese Monsters To Invade Dallas May 1

 めめめのくらげ

めめめのくらげ

Jellyfish Eyes

Hey Addicts, Mimielle here. On May 1st, I will attend the premiere of quite a unique event. Takashi Murakami is one of the world’s most influential and acclaimed contemporary artists and a self-proclaimed Japanese pop culture connoisseur. An almost Otaku King.

I will be at the US screening of his first feature-length film, Jellyfish Eyes (Mememe no Kurage) at the Dallas Museum of Art on May 1st with a Q & A afterwards. The film will then make 8 more stops on a cross-country museum tour of the United States afterwards. Tickets vanished at astonishing speed everywhere.

You can see the trailer here.

murakamiTakashi__Murakami_KaiKai_kiki_and_Me___The_Shocking_Truth_Revealed_350

The film, released in Japan in 2013, has fanciful monsters of course…as compelling as some of his familiar Superflat  art canvas characters shown above – Mr. Dob and the playfully menacing mascots of his same-named art production company KaiKai and KiKi…but children are the focus (and the stars) of his first long film. When asked why, Mr Murakami replied:

“I want to highlight Japan’s complicated social issues in a way that children can appreciate so perhaps when they become adults, they will be better equipped to deal or even improve these issues. Children are very smart, therefore it is imperative for them to know the world we live in is full of traps, dangers and unpleasantness. I am not a pessimist, I am a realist.”

He concludes with his opinion that telling children the harsh truths will prepare and allow them to create and persevere in spite of hardship.

Takashi Murakami in flowers

Takashi Murakami

It is no small wonder, with his dedication to promoting and supporting young artists, that the 52-year old Mr. Murakami would want to reach out to them as young as possible with a wake up call to question things and the message to continue to create despite adversity. My photos and a report will follow here on the blog after the event but I am definitely wearing my best waterproof mascara for this, you can bet on it!

Cheers~Mimi

Credits: KaiKai Kiki CO LTD, The Japan Times,

JapanCinema.Net, The Wall Street Journal