Forget about SCREAM or THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT--this
is the state of the art in modern horror. RINGU is a stunning 1998 chiller from
Japan that has been acclaimed as the next Big Thing by seemingly everybody...and
for once they're right.
The lineage of RINGU (or RING) is a tangled one.
It started out life as a best-selling novel by Koji Suzuki, which was made into
a TV movie in 1996 that proved so popular it was released theatrically that same
year. Thus, the version I'm reviewing, while being the "official" movie
adaptation, was by no means RING'S first screen incarnation. It did, however,
prove an enormous hit with critics and audiences, and two sequels followed (RING
2 and RING SPIRAL, both in 1998), as did a prequal (RING 0: BIRTHDAY, 2000). In
addition, a Korean version called THE RING VIRUS was released in 2000, and the
inevitable Hollywood remake is currently in production, meaning, of course, that
you'd better see this, the definitive version, first!
This is a truly imaginative, unpredictable and, of
course, SCARY tale, with a riveting premise and the courage to see it through
without compromise. Screenwriter Hayashi Junichiro seems determined to confound
expectations at every turn, from the misleading SCREAM-like opening to the
unprecedented (though quite effective) low-key finale.
A video is being passed around among a group of
teenagers, all of whom are found dead within a week of watching it. Reiko, a
crusading journalist, takes on the case, and quickly gets her hands on a copy of
the offending cassette. It turns out to be a haunting and unnerving collection
of surreal imagery highlighted by the image of a mysterious woman in a mirror.
Reiko tracks the origins of the woman, who it turns out was a renowned psychic
who may have committed a murder. From there, Reiko finds herself moving farther
and farther into a shadowy and mysterious world dominated by the dead woman's
Director Hideo Nakata's firm control of tone and
atmosphere make RINGU a joy to watch. In direct contrast to most of today's
horror fare, the mood here is deceptively calm, with a total absence of gore and
lame in-jokes. An unnerving atmosphere of otherworldly evil is established at
the beginning, which only grows more potent as the film progresses. The
measured pacing is pitch perfect and there are at least two expertly handled
shocks (not cheap ones!).
Of course, this might make RINGU sound old-fashioned,
but nothing could be farther from the truth. This is in fact one of the most
"modern" horror films on the market.
Omega Inc./Ace Pictures
Director: Hideo Nakata
Producer: Takashige Ichise, Shinya Kawai, Takenori Sento
Screenplay: Hayashi Junichiro
Based on a novel by
Cinematography: Junichiro Hayashi
Editor: Takahashi Nobuyukia
Cast: Matsushima Nanako, Sanada Hiroyuki, Nakatani Miki, Sato Hitomi