Wednesday, October 25, 2006


(1998) ***1/2

I've only seen this once before, and compared it unfavorably to the American remake when I reviewed The Ring in 2004. Maybe I should try to review this as its own movie and not compare it to the remake, but I can't. Mostly because the Ring is SO MUCH BETTER.

Okay, I'll go through the laundry list and then maybe I can give Ringu some respect.

-- The corpses Samara leaves behind in their wake are horribly decayed, while the Ringu victims look more like the Joker got them.

-- The videotape is too short. What a ripoff getting killed for watching that.

-- I spend a lot of time griping about Ringu's Sea Goblin allusions in my other review, and it wasn't quite as silly as I'd remembered. This despite the line "Frolic in brine, goblins be thine." Sadako's mother is described as obsessed with the sea, and it's conjectured that the father might not have been human. That worked okay. But Ryuji has a vision of a press conference where Sadako stopped a man's heart from across the room. "She can kill someone just by wishing it?" he says. This setup for the final scene is completely unnecessary. It's like one of those narration blocks in the corner of an X-men panel that describes Wolverine's healing power again. The mystery is demystified before it even forms.

-- The cursed people don't experience the constant visions of their encroaching doom. In the remake, Samara's ill will is burning relentlessly into your brain all week, rising to that horrible crescendo. The feeling of dread is so absent here, I wasn't sure why Reiko even believed in the tape's lethal power.

-- No feeling of dread! The Ring is just dripping spooky malaise out of every pore. Ringu is a well-acted, pretty tight story, but sometimes it feels like a drama, sometimes it feels like a mystery thriller. The first few Asian horror movies I ever saw -- Ju-on, The Eye, Pulse, even Korei (Seance) -- all pack a scarier punch than this does.

-- Not enough Sadako. We see her kill that one reporter and then her dad clocks her on the head and down the well she goes. Never do we meet those who knew her and shudder at the memory. There are no "things she shows you." Even her father's hatred is never fleshed out.

In its defense, Ringu is an excellent story told in a lean, straightforward fashion. The Japanese tendency to accept certain psychic/spiritual beliefs is worked in well (although on this side of the pond I think The Ring takes strength from lacking any sort of accepted explanation for what's going on). The signature sound of the videotape is effectively creepy music from a spectral string section -- hearing just that when the death phonecall came was pretty cool.

And tiny shorts!

Most of all, Ringu is the origin of creepy little girls with long black hair and videotapes that kill you. Arigato, Ringu.


Summerisle said...

I've often whined that both you and JPX don't give Ringu the credit it deserves, so I'm pleased that you finally acknowledged its worth.

I'm not about to argue that Ringu is better than the Ring. It's interesting though, because Japanese culture historically excels at adopting western ideas and making them better. The Ring is an extremely rare example of the opposite.

Octopunk said...

Too true! It's unfortunate that the West immediately set about putting things back to "normal" by producing remakes far inferior to the Eastern originals.

I was really amazed at how little of what I consider the delicious J-horror vibe was at work in this movie, especially since that vibe permeates the remake. I guess Verbinski did his J-homework.

DCD said...

but, you know - tiny shorts!