Ringu (Ring) (Japan, 1998), directed by Hideo Nakata from the novel by Koji Suzuki (once dubbed “the Japanese Stephen King”), changed the face of Japanese horror cinema.
The eerie thriller about a mysterious, unsettling videotape that kills everyone who watches it seven days later is an urban legend turned skin-crawling psycho-thriller with supernatural echoes. The curse spreads though a high school like a prank gone wrong, leaving dead teenagers in its wake. A TV reporter mother (Nanako Matsushima) and her ex-husband (Hiroyuki Sanada) team up to solve the mystery after their daughter Tomoko (Yûko Takeuchi) watches the tape and gets the ominous phone call with her death sentence.
Ringu combines the primal ghost stories of classic Japanese horror, with its ferocious spirits turned into vengeful monsters from the abuse they endured before death, with the conventions of teen horror movies and contemporary culture. The mystery is effective enough but it’s the texture of the experience that gets under your skin.
The videotape oozes suggestive horror, the victims are frozen in a disturbing look of utter terror. Photographs of the doomed smear and blur into unrecognizable puddles and a gnarled ghost crawls and stumbles to her victims with the jerky, unearthly manner of a demonic insect. Director Nakata never makes much sense out of the backstory, but he never lets up on the atmosphere of dread or the haunting, horrific imagery, and he turns the human factor into the film’s final stab of true horror.
Ringu was a sensation, quickly becoming the most successful horror movie in Japanese history, and it became a phenomenon throughout Asia, spawning sequels, prequels, remakes, and a TV series, and even a respectable American remake. None of them approach the simple genius of the original, which spins the murky tale with some of the most ingeniously simple techniques sprung on a modern audience.
Not rated, in Japanese with English subtitles.
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Ringu Collection (Four movies) [Blu-ray]
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The Arrow Blu-ray release features a 4K restoration of the film, commentary, featurettes and interviews.
Ringu Collection also includes the sequels Ringu 2 (1999) directed by Nakata, “alternate” sequel Rasen (aka Spiral, 1998), directed by George Iida, and the eerie prequel Ringu 0 (2000), directed by Norio Tsuruta.