“If you keep playing in the water, the monster will come for you.”
The Scoop:1998 NR, a directed by Nakata Hideo and starring Matsushima Nanako, Sanada Hiroyuki, Takeuchi Yuko, and Izuno Orie
Tagline: “One curse, one cure, one week to find it”
Summary Capsule: Watching a cursed video gives you a 30-year-old curse. Hit “eject” now!
Kyle’s rating: this version rules, the upcoming American remake will drool
Kyle’s review: Thank goodness for the Internet, because whether or not unlimited porno access is your bag you can also immerse yourself in wondrous facts and trivia from different places around the globe previously unreachable. After browsing personal web logs and hanging out in teen girl chat rooms, I can tell you the exact pecking order and who is dating whom at every high school in Idaho. I also know the best places to “chill” at 2 a.m. in every downtown area in the Midwest states (apparently cow-tipping is all the rage). But most importantly for me, I can get updates on the cream of the crop advancements in global pop culture. I keep an eye out for hot news pertaining to Catholic schoolgirl uniforms and/or horror films, so I was overjoyed recently to read about the absolute coolness of this Japanese horror film Ring. Of course in Japan it’s called a name represented by 3 symbols I wouldn’t know how to reproduce here if my life depended on it, but believe me: it translates to “Ring.” I read that it’s only available overseas and subtitled copies are impossible to find in the USA, which meant a drive into Los Angeles was a necessary evil to find a (illegal bootleg) copy of Ring for me. California rules the roost! Ring is mine! And man is it good! But sorry, dudes, this is not Lord of the Rings related. I should have mentioned that earlier. Please return now to your weekend role-playing game already in progress.
In Ring, we’re introduced to a creative urban legend making its way around Japanese social circles about cursed video footage that, once viewed, must be shown by a cursed viewer to another person within 7 days or else that cursed viewer will die . . . HORRIBLY!!! Leaving behind a tense corpse frozen in fear with a really scared expression on the face and no identifiable cause of death. When the niece of reporter Asakawa Reiko (Matsushima Nanako) is the latest victim of the curse, Asakawa investigates and (surprise!) rather quickly gets cursed herself. With 7 days left to live and the clock ticking Asakawa is forced to use any means necessary to solve the mystery of the curse to save her life, including asking her vaguely psychic ex-husband Takayama Ryuji (Sanada Hiroyuki) for help. But will researching and the understanding the curse and then racing to avenge 30-year-old injustices save Asakawa or she too ensnared in the ring? What’s that playing on the TV screen? Aiiiiieeeee!
Not only is Ring a superbly crafted and visually pleasant film, but also the scares are both cerebral and disturbing. The cursed video footage is grainy, black-and-white (always scary!), and incredibly freakish. A woman brushing her hair, a mirror moving to show multiple images, a bunch of whats doing what? Just what is going in there? Satisfyingly the images are left largely unexplained, leaving you to analyze and fill in the explanation gaps out of your own twisted psyche. But the absolute best part of Ring is POTENTIAL SPOILERS! BEWARE! the villain, Yamamuro Sadako (Izuno Orie). As the mystery surrounding her and her connection to this video footage is slowly discovered we, along with the main characters, come to sympathize with Sadako as her tragic life and understandable motivations come to light. Of course, she’s still really scary-looking and her power is awesome and repulsive, so you hate her even as you feel bad for her. That’s part of the appeal of Ring. Usually with horror movies all the action comes to the main characters and you’re just watching stuff happen to them, but Ring is one of the few where the characters are in sleuth mode and they’re following clues to solve a horrific mystery and you’re drawn into their search as they go. It’s occasionally slow moving but there is enough weirdness around every corner to subtly fill you with dread so when Sadako finally makes her appearance your nerves are ready to scream. And so you shall!
Ring isn’t for everybody. I said it wasn’t involved with Lord of the Rings, so bug off already your Tolkien freaks! Also, if you’re too impatient and spoiled by Bruckheimer to enjoy a slow-building film about solving a mystery where you have to pay close attention and read subtitles, avoid Ring and stick with American slashers. But if you’re up for a thoughtful and creative horror movie more chilling than thrilling and you have a special pipeline to getting your own copy of Ring (notice how I’m careful not to endorse illegal bootlegging, which is illegal), then try to check this out before the American remake comes along and ruins everything! Did I mention my review is cursed? If you don’t have a friend read this within 7 days AND take a picture of yourself in a Catholic schoolgirl uniform and send it me, your soul is forfeit! Don’t forget the flash! Double prints! Red lipstick for everyone! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!
Justin’s rating: How I prep for my trip to Japan
Justin’s review: Kyle was kind enough to send me a copy of a copy of Ringu (please don’t tell the FBI though) for my viewing pleasure, but after reading his and other critics’ reviews of the movie, I was slightly hesitant. I mean, there, in my bag, was an innocent little tape labelled “RING”, just waiting for my mutant seal of critical critique. Yet, I’m also a big wuss when it comes to freaky horror movies. I do just fine with the gorefests and the jump-out-and-strangle-you routines, but when it comes to films that implant scary-as-hell imagery in my head, I tend to shy away. I’ve grown accustomed to sleeping at night, thank you very much.
But a duty is a duty, so over Christmas break I popped in Ringu at my parents’ house (in the basement, with all the lights on mind you) and kept my finger posed over the fast-forward button. All I was missing was my security blanket, but alas, PoolMan was nowhere to be found. To my semi-pleasant surprise, Ringu wasn’t as freaky as I had made it out in my mind to be, and I got to have Fun With Subtitles. My dad walked through the room and asked me what I was watching. “Japanese horror film,” I said. “It’ll help me learn their culture better for my visit.” Yes, between the boogyman antics of Ring and the demolition oriented Godzillas, I figured I knew everything about their culture that I would need to survive.
What Ringu is, is simply a Japanese urban legend movie. Sorta like our Blair Witch Project, only with women that would actually stop talking once in a while. As the film begins, two girls are at a sleepover (and wrestling rather suspiciously), as one tells another of this story about a haunted videotape. Supposedly, watching the images contained therein would place a one-week countdown to the viewer’s demise. Although set up as a story, the legend quickly proves itself true. A perky Japanese reporter stumbles onto the story and naturally watches the video because, hey, it was either that or the Elmo movie. Being concerned and naturally shrewd, she manages to suck her immediate family and friends into watching the film as well (a psychic ex-husband and a yappy little kid). Ah, if you gotta go down into the depths of hell, might as well drag your loved ones along as well.
More or less, the whole of the film is her one week quest to unraveling the mystery behind the fuzzy and odd videotape images. All of the scenes are set deep in shadow and blue hues, which gives an otherworldly feel to the (definitely) amateur production. Nothing leaps out and claws out anyone’s eyes here, and there is a remarkable lack of blood. However, the aura of dread that Ringu projects will grip you in its dank, slimy clutches as the movie rolls along. By the time you get to the final, and in my hipporiffic opinion, “scarier than standing in a corner” scene, you’ll be building a fort out of your couch cushions for emotional support. I’ll just call her Zombie Hair Lady, and let your imagination far underestimate the creepiness that happens. That’s it, I’m done, see you all at the after-review party.
- Ring is based off of a Japanese novel, part of a trilogy. In Japan and other various countries, these novels have been turned into multiple films and television adaptations that range from good to mind-numbingly bad. This version of the Ring being reviewed is the best of the bunch, and has a direct sequel (Ring 2) and a direct prequel (Ring 0: Birthday). Anything else you hear about is a different (and largely unrelated) production. This movie’s title is also called “Ringu”.
- In the novel and the bulk of the adaptations, the reporter is a man named Asakawa Kazuyuki and he’s investigating everything with a college buddy Takayama Ryuji. The change to Asakawa being a woman and having Ryuji being her ex-husband was unique to this theatrical version of Ring and makes for a lot more tension in their having to work together.
- There are no rings in this movie, as you might be thinking (you Lord of the Rings bastards!). Instead, “Ring” can refer to both the cycle that people viewing the videotape enter (they have to show it to someone, who has to show it to someone, etc.) and to the ring of the telephone call you get after you watched the video to tell you that you have 7 days to live.
- James G. wrote in to add, “In the Japanese sequels to ‘Ringu’, the curse is actually a virus that kills you in seven days. The virus spreads by people passing the tape onto other people, therefore a cycle which Sadako can ultimately claim human lives.”
If you liked this movie, try these:
- The Haunting (original version)