Directed by Nakata Hideo, 1998, 91 min. starring Matsushima Nanako, Sanada Hiroyuki, Nakatani Miki, Daisuke Ban, Rie Inoue, Masako and Sato Hitomi.
Fair Warning: a LARGE amount of spoilers are contained within the pictures - BEWARE!
For most of us Western Japanese-horror film fans, I guess this is where we started our spiral into horror: with Nakata Hideo's blood-curdling masterpiece, Ring. This film has been at the forefront of the so-called 'New Wave' of Japanese cinema and has opened the door for many wonderful films to gain their proper respect in the West.
After record-breaking box office attendance in Japan, critical hyperbole and a lot of hype,along with a dedicated fan-base, Ring (known in Japan as Ringu) has spread from being a national phenomenon into a global success. The central character of Sadako has even been absorbed into popular culture, appearing in adverts and at theme parks!
Based on a series of best-selling novels by Kôji Suzuki, Ring was first brought to the Japanese public's attention by a TV series which featured many of the actors which went on to appear in the rest of the trilogy. The series proved incredibly popular, and from there, Nakata (already established as a leading horror film director after his success with Joyuu-rei) wrote the film screenplay, along with Hayashi Junichiro and Takahashi Nobuyukia. He assembled an incredibly well-respected cast of actors from stage, screen and also kabuki theatre, and the rest, as they say, is history
The film itself is a truly innovatory work. Nakata proved conclusively that you don't need buckets of tomato ketchup and a special effects budget of millions to make a really horrifying film. Darkly shot and maintaining a tense, eerie atmosphere throughout, the film's high point and infamous final scene leaves even the most hardened horror-fan shuddering, even though all Nakata needed to create it was a simple, faceless figure in a white kimono, and a TV set.
An interesting extra point is that not long after it was released, Ring was featured on a Japanese TV show dealing with bizarre and inexplicable events; it transpired that part of the film's odd atmosphere might be due to the fact that the apartment which is Asakawa Reiko's in the movie is actually supposed to be haunted by the ghost of a young girl who committed suicide in the living room. If you watch very closely the scene where Reiko is standing on the balcony whilst Ryuji is inside watching the video, at the moment she turns around to re-enter the room, you can see the shape of a girl's face (not Reiko's) reflected in the patio door. The production crew swear blind that the image was not superimposed by them, but who knows for sure
The film opens with two teenagers, Tomoko (played by Yuko Takeuchi) and Masami (Hitomi Sato) discussing a popular urban legend; that a boy in the Izu peninsula tried to videotape a late-night film on a Tokyo channel, but that channel didn't work in Izu. However, there was something on the tape; strange, seemingly disconnected images and a "scary woman" telling him that he would die a week after he had watched the tape. Of course, in the true spirit of urban legends, no-one knows anyone who has seen the video in question, but everyone has a friend of a friend who knows someone who's seen it
Not long after this discussion, Tomoko dies under mysterious circumstances, along with three of her other friends. She is found by her mother, her face distorted in a terrible last scream. Masami, who was there when Tomoko died, has gone insane and been committed to a secure mental facility.
Tomoko's aunt, a single mother and reporter named Asakawa Reiko (played outstandingly by Matsushima Nanako), is actually doing a report for TV about the popularity of the video curse myth, and becomes suspicious about Tomoko's death in light of the fact that her three friends died at exactly the same time. She decides to investigate what happened to the teenagers, and eventually discovers that all four of them stayed in a resort in Izu, and there they found a strange video which they all watched together
After finding and watching the same copy of the video, Reiko has now become cursed, and with the aid of her ex-husband Takayama Ryuji (the great actor Sanada Hiroyuki, aka Henry Sanada, aka Harry Sanada, aka Duke Sanada, of samurai-and-ninja-film fame) she tries to find out how to break the curse of the terrible death sentence hanging over herself, her ex-husband, and also her young son Yoichi (Rikiya Otaka)
but who are the strange woman and child in the video? Who is the mysterious hooded figure? And what does the appearance of the name Sadako mean? You'll have to see the film to find out!
Some critics have complained that the film is difficult and convoluted in its plot, and in many ways, there are many questions left unanswered right up until the release of the third film in the cycle (actually the fourth, if you count Rasen, Ring's much maligned original sequel) in 2001, Ringu 0: Baasudei (aka Ring 0: Birthday). But that only seems to add to its charm; Ring has its own mysterious world contained within it, and some questions are better left unanswered
The atmosphere of the film is also greatly enhanced by a fantastic soundtrack featuring the work of the Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki (also featured in such classic horror films as The Shining and The Exorcist), and also original music by Kenji Kawai, who has been making movie soundtracks since 1986.
So, if you like your horror psychological, creepy, emotionally-charged and resonant, Ring is the film for you - and once you see it, you'll have to see all the rest of them in quick succession.
(filmographic note: the DVD is available in 2 different English subtitled versions. a) a R0 PAL disc released by Tartan Video with a poor transfer and burned-on subtitles. The film is very dark, has pops and crackles and a blue tint. The shots on this page are from that version. b) an R1 NTSC version released by Dreamworks with optional subs and a better transfer: the movie looks 100% better, has legible subtitles, pin-sharp soundtrack and a more natural colouring.)
Snowblood Apple Rating for this film:
Entertainment value: 100/10
Supernatural Death Rate: 6 bodies in total
Appearances of Evil Incarnate: only 4, but boy, they're good!
Appearances of actual paranormal events: 1
Scare Factor: aaaargh!/10
Ring / Ringu Wallpaper
You can download this wallpaper here: [800x600] [1024x768]
You can download this wallpaper here: [800x600] [1024x768]
Wallpaper credit: Alex Apple, 2002
Snowblood Apple Filmographies:
The absolute very best site dedicated to Ring and all its sequels, prequels, stage productions and TV spinoffs is of course Ringworld where you can find out everything there is to know about this wonderful series. There are more links featured on the intro page.