30 Day Horror Review – PSYCHOLOGICAL HORROR – Ring (1998)

A mysterious video kills whoever views it, unless that viewer can solve its mystery. (IMDB synopsis)

Yes, this will be the original version in Japanese, not the American remake. It should be good, though – I’ve tended to like most of the Japanese horror I’ve watched, like Audition. (Incidentally, Audition has put me off acupuncture for the rest of my life.) Anyway, the Japanese do psychological horror very well, I feel, so let’s take a look at Ringu. Not to be confused with Pingu, which is charming.

Review:

At the beginning of this one, two teenaged girls are sat doing homework, and one has a strange story to tell. She’s heard about a boy who watched a strange woman on a VCR recording, then got a phone call and died a week later, just as the woman promised. Her friend, Tomoko, isn’t amused as she and a group of friends experienced something similar, exactly one week ago. Her phone rings, but thankfully it’s just her mother. The girls laugh in relief and then, while Masami’s in the bathroom, the TV turns itself on and Tomoko gets an unseen supernatural attack full in the face.
Meanwhile, a female reporter named Reiko is interviewing several schoolgirls about the cursed videotape, or late night programme depending on the story, where the strange woman appears. This is not the first supernatural story the reporters have heard – in fact, they mention a woman with torn lips, which could be a reference to Kuchisake-onna. Even so, Reiko follows up the story and while attending her niece Tomoko’s funeral, she discovers that Tomoko and three other dead teenagers happened to be staying in a cabin the week before.
So Reiko goes to the Japanese equivalent of a Centreparcs on the mountainside and discovers a VHS tape near the reception desk. She watches it and, what do you know, gets a phone call telling her ‘seven days’. So it’s up to her and her… ex-husband? OK then… to analyse the tape and defeat the curse once and for all.
This wasn’t half bad. I deliberately watched the original Ring first, so as to be properly disappointed with the American remake. But this version isn’t exactly perfect, either. It has a different structure to a Western film – plot elements are introduced only a little time before they become relevant to the plot and there’s hardly any foreshadowing that I could see.
As an example, Reiko and Ryuji deduce from the tape that a psychic woman called Shizuko has something to do with this whole mess. They track down a guy who was there at Shizuko’s psychic demonstration and Ryuji, stating that he has similar psychic powers, clasps the guy’s arm and sees into his memory. This is how they find out that Shizuko’s daughter, Sadako, gave a demonstration of her own, far greater powers, and THIS is how they determine that the cursed tape is a manifestation of Sadako’s wrath. All well and good, but this is literally the first time Ryuji mentions his psychic abilities – at first, I thought he might have been joking, trying to get this guy to talk, but doesn’t look like it!
Similarly, Reiko is a little upset when halfway through the film, it turns out she and Ryuji have roughly a week left to live. But the stakes are only raised later on, when Tomoko apparently urges Reiko’s young son to watch the tape as well. THAT’S what really gets Reiko’s arse in gear – concern for little Yoichi. Before that, it’s just, “Oh well, I guess I’d better spend some time with Yoichi before I pop my clogs!”
Now that’s just the bad stuff. The film had plenty of good points. It’s a little hard for me to tell, since Ring isn’t in my native language, but it seems to be very well acted. In the first scene, Tomoko confesses that she watched the weird tape a week ago, and then pretends for a moment that she was kidding to scare Masami, possibly trying to convince herself that it didn’t happen. The relief that washes over the girls is evident, and so is their mounting fear when the house phone rings.
There’s also the scene in which Ryuji comes into Reiko’s house for a talk about this cursed tape, and you can tell immediately that they’re ex-husband and wife. The way they look at each other, the familiarity, the awkwardness, is all spot on. There are even some highly emotional scenes that have to do with Reiko worrying about the fate of her son, and being overjoyed when for her, the curse is broken.
Then, and only then, at the end of the film, does the audience see Sadako’s vengeful spirit in all her glory. She looks amazingly creepy – long scraggly hair, limping walk, and let’s not forget those nail-less fingers. And I love the fact that she crawls slowly towards the TV screen and through it. It would have been so easy to resort to a jumpscare reveal, and instead, the audience’s fear and dread is allowed to intensify… slooooowwwwllllyyyyyyy.

Final Verdict:

I’m glad I watched this one first, even if it was a pain to try to get hold of online (incidentally, massive thanks to Rob for telling me what to do, because I really suck at computers). If you’re thinking of watching it yourself and you also suck at computers, I’d say the DVD option is probably better. (You’ll get the right version if you search eBay for Ringu or Ring 1998.) And that’s all I have to say about that.

Rating:

6 ½ jam sandwiches.

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