Ladies of Horror May-hem: Sadako Yamamura


Want to know how to be heart-stoppingly frightening without ever uttering a word? Look no further than Sadako Yamamura, the young woman of immeasurable power and fury in director Hideo Nakata’s Ringu.

I have already attributed my run-in with Asami Yamazaki as what started me on my Asian horror kick a few years ago. It was a recent re-watching of director Gore Verbinski’s American remake of Ringu that sort of re-sparked this interest and finally urged me to watch the original Japanese version. I have to admit that this was one of those rare instances in which I believe the remake…perhaps isn’t better than the original, but speaks to my Western sensibilities a bit more effectively than the original did.

That being said, when I continued to mull over the original movie, considering its impact based on its 1998 release year, I came to the conclusion that Sadako Yamamura probably would have had me curled into a neat little ball, had I seen this movie when it first came out. As it was, the visuals within the American remake freaked me out so badly that I didn’t revisit it for more than a decade.

Sadako, however, is a stunning example of how many Asian horror directors know how to pervert normal human movement in ways that burn into your brain, only to resurface at the most inopportune times. Like right when you’re trying to fall asleep. Or you need to get something out of a dark closet. Or when you’re alone at night and you need to walk through the room where the television is located…but you just can’t get that image out of your head.

Beyond her visual presence, let’s not forget that Sadako possesses a power so frightening that it defies death…and feeds a rage that can drop you like a bird hit by buckshot. While I admittedly have questions regarding some of her powers and how they manifest themselves, I cannot deny the fact that she is right up there with the likes of Carrie White when it comes to warnings against picking on those who are…differently wired.

Sadako also stands in line with my ongoing belief that sometimes what you don’t see is way more frightening than what you do see. While her American counterpart Samara Morgan came decked out in some rather impressive practical makeup and CGI flash, Sadako’s final appearance is rattling in the starkness of what she reveals. Broken, bloodied nails. Long damask of sable hair that shows nothing of her face. But that eye. That. Eye.

Edgar Allan Poe would have freaked had he seen this movie (literature nerd holla!).

I’m actually going to do something now that I’ve been avoiding up to this point with previous entries, simply because I could have wasted hours looking up video clips on YouTube for my previous ladies. However, I’m going to make an exception for Sadako, because I think it’s worth it to see just what I mean. With some amazing articulation, backward filming, and creative cuts, Sadako’s arrival is one you’d be sure to remember…at least for as long as you’ll have left once she’s finished with you.