Upon it’s release in Japan in the summer of 1998 ‘Ring’ became an instant success, it was followed by two sequels with alternate stories, a prequel and was remade as ‘The Ring’ in the US and ‘The Ring Virus’ in Korea.
In ‘Ring’ (リング) female reporter Asakawa Reiko discovers that her niece and friends have mysteriously died after watching a video tape they found in a log cabin in Hakone. After setting out to investigate she too becomes caught up in events, becoming cursed herself and with a 7 day deadline she has to resolve it’s mystery in the hope of breaking it.
‘Ring’ takes a familiar curse idea: the chain letter. Unless you send the letter on to other people you’ll have bad luck. The video tape is the ultimate chain letter, killing those that don’t copy and send it on after 7 days. The execution of the curse in the film ‘Ring’ is sheer genius. Using the Television as the device through which those cursed are killed by. Every home has a TV set and usually in more than one room. It’s an inescapable reality and once you’ve watched the film ‘Ring’ yourself you can never look at a TV in the same way again. Surely you won’t turn your back on it at least because in your mind you too wonder if you have been cursed after watching the film. Who didn’t secretly count down the 7 days after watching ‘Ring’ and breath a sigh of relief when they passed them without event? I’ve heard stories of people who placed table cloths over their Television sets after watching the movie so as to protect themselves.
The movie is based on the equally excellent Novel “Ring” by Koji Suzuki. The movie follows the Book’s plot very closely except for the change of the main character Asakawa to a female lead, as is the norm with most J-Horror movies. The overall Tone of the film is changed too. You can still feel a “presence” in the background of both the Movie and Novel however the movie introduces a supernatural aspect to the curse where as the Books take a more scientific/realistic approach grounding the Virus (curse in the movie) to the real world. The supernatural quality works unsurprisingly well for the movie and the imagery dreamt up by it’s Director Hideo Nakata is, as I said above, genius.
When they made Ring they also made at the same time a film called ‘Rasen’ (English title ‘Spiral’), also based on the sequel Novel of the same name. The problem with Rasen is that it loses all the tension, all the psychological horror of it’s predecessor, replaces it with gore and becomes a straight forward mystery from then on. In ‘Rasen’ we are introduced to a new character Mitsuo Ando a former friend of Ryuji Takayama. Upon doing an autopsy of his friend he is brought into the events surrounding the cursed tape, with Ryuji’s ex wife and son missing and later found dead it is up to Ando to discover why they died.
That problem with ‘Rasen’/’Spiral’ seems to be a lack of communication. One director decided to be creative, the other did a more straight forward adaptation of the novel. They decided to go their own ways. The tone and atmosphere of each movie is completely different. ‘Ring’ is Horror, ‘Rasen’ at best a mystery and Horror lite. In ‘Ring’ we have the chain letter curse, in ‘Rasen’ it’s the self replicating Virus. ‘Rasen’ also relies on the gore aspect a little bit too much, for example Ryuji’s autopsy at the beginning which was unnecessarily graphic. ‘Ring’ was all about not showing things and letting the audience use it’s imagination. ‘Rasen’ leaves little to the imagination. It isn’t a bad film. But up against it’s predecessor it’s hopeless, it’s not the sequel people would expect after going into see Ring. In ‘Ring’ Sadako is a queer walking pus eyed monster, in Rasen she’s a sexy, hot, perverted ghost who licks your face. Now I’m not complaining about hot Ghost chicks that lick faces, but sexy ain’t scary. However, credit can be given to the fact that the characterization of Sadako matches the novel more so as that of a seducing temptress. When both films were released in Japanese cinemas Audiences went to see ‘Ring’ but skipped ‘Rasen’ which lead to an alternate sequel ‘Ring 2′ being released a year later, the movie would tie in closer with the first film.
The first time I watched ‘Ring’ was on UK channel Film Four in 2001. The most recent viewing of the film was on the Tartan DVD box set which has updated the subtitles. While it’s a nice transfer and all the subtitles are a bit too perfect a translation and leave a lot of the “flavour” of the original out. Take this line for example
“Frolic in brine, goblins be thine.”
Which is now
“If you keep doing SHOUMON, BOUKON will come.”
What the Fudge?! How could they mess that up. They screwed a great line.
Ring is what started the J-Horror wave, it changed the Horror film industry and introduced a new element into it that remains until this day. It’s why I see the film as being so significant. It also scared the hell out of me like no other film did and planted Sadako in my mind forever leaving me psychologically scarred. Yay!
Favorite Quote: “This kind of thing… it doesn’t start by one person telling a story. It’s more like everyone’s fear just takes on a life of its own.” – Ryuji Takayama