Ring | aka Ringu (1998) Review

"The Ring" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"The Ring" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Director: Hideo Nakata
Writer: Hayashi Junichiro, Koji Suzuki
Cast: Nanako Matsushima, Hiroyuki Sanada, Rikiya Otaka, Miki Nakatani, Yuko Takeuchi, Hitomi Sato, Rie Ino, Masako, Yoichi Numata, Yutaka Matsushige, Katsumi Muramatsu
Running Time: 91 min.

By Numskull

“Frolic in brine, goblins be thine.”

Doesn’t make much sense sitting up there all by itself, does it? Well, it may not make much sense after watching the movie, either, but it’s still kinda catchy, I think. Certainly not the only aspect of the film that stays with you afterwards.

Ring’s plot device…a strange video tape (the content of which is perhaps the most chilling part of the whole film) which condemns those who watch it to an inexplicable death…may sound like unbearable camp of the first water, but it makes for a very solid, very serious thriller that doesn’t need to rely on blood, guts, knife-wielding sociopaths, and half-naked teenage girls wearing (and taking off) designer clothes to ilicit a strong response. Instead, there is a thick atmosphere of dread, and a healthy yet plausible dose of the supernatural. Ring’s horror ranges from nerve-jangling jolts to eerie, quietly disturbing imagery and doesn’t relent until several minutes after the closing credits. Make no mistake: this is not a film that will be easily forgotten.

We follow investigative reporter Reiko Asakawa (Matsushima Nanako) on her quest to unveil the truth behind the curse of the video and its mysterious origin. She uncovers facts, to be sure, but the truth? Ah, now, that’s something different. Part of what makes Ring so effective is that it laughs in the face of conventional, “neat little package” film making philosphy. Enlisting the aid of her ex-husband Ryuji (Sanada Hiroyuki), she must work under a deadline which is rather more severe than is typical while working for a traditional newspaper: she is doomed to die one week after watching the tape, as with all of its other victims, unless…

Hmm…I think I’ll just leave it at “unless”.

With a film such as this, it is even more important than usual to avoid venturing too far into spoiler territory, so I’ll say little more about its actual events. I didn’t much like the “out of the blue” nature of the ending, though it DOES make sense, and it’s still a quite effective conclusion (and I use that word loosely…).

(The following paragraph is for people who have already seen the movie or who won’t be bothered by a partial spoiler; all others should skip it. Don’t worry, it won’t hurt my feelings.) It seems to me that there is one rather brazen flaw in the movie towards the end. When Ryuji descends into the well to look for Sadako’s body, the water comes up to his shoulders when he reaches the bottom. The circumference of the well looks to be less than ten feet. Now, I ask you: how much space does a young woman’s corpse take up? Instead of wasting all of that time removing the water with Reiko dumping the buckets, couldn’t he have just groped around until he found Sadako? Hell yes…he could have done it in mere seconds. But instead, the film tries to squeeze out even more suspense, hoping that nobody will notice the stupidity of Ryuji’s and Reiko’s plan. I hate to say this, but…DUH!!!

The novel Ring, upon which this film is based, was a huge success in Japan, and author Koji Suzuki followed it up with a sequel, Spiral, and a prequel, Loop, both of which were also adapted for the big screen (in fact, Spiral was filmed TWICE, and the screenplay for Loop was written by Suzuki himself). Since it is highly unlikely that these books will be translated into English (if they didn’t do it for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, they won’t do it for this), I can’t comment on the accuracy and fidelity to the printed page that the films show, but the first Ring film, at least, is highly recommended.

Numskull’s Rating: 8/10

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