It’s been over 20 years since Sadako first terrorised audiences, and in celebration, Ring is hitting cinemas once again. The Japanese phenomenon kick started the re-ignition in interest of Asian films, and in particular, those that focused on the horrific and twisted. Although based on the novel by Koji Suzuki which itself had already been adapted into a TV movie, it was truly Hideo Nakata’s feature film that brought the story into popular culture. It was released along with a sequel that was quickly forgotten to make way for Ring 2, followed by a prequel, had a Korean and American remake, the latter spawning its own trilogy, and more recently has seen its antagonist shoved into trashy (but occasionally fun) 3D films and vs. matches with the scary lady from The Grudge franchise. This is in no way takes into account the similarly themed horrors that arrived in its wake.
Funnily enough, Ring itself hit at the exact right time. 1998-1999 was still a time when DVDs and mobile phones were in their infancy. This is most fortunate for a film which relies on a cursed video tape that triggers a landline phone to ring, but also lends itself to the procedural nature of uncovering the film’s mystery. There’s no quick Google search here, or viewing tweets to find out what teenagers are saying about the cursed video tape. This makes the film feel more personal towards the protagonists, as they feel isolated, and threatened by their own knowledge.
Starting with an exceptionally eerie scene where two schoolgirls share rumours concerning an urban myth, we are quickly let into the film’s tone. It is painfully quiet, where silent moments and pauses have far more dread than pointless jump scares. This atmosphere continues throughout the film, even up to its epic climax that you are probably aware of, but never gets less powerful. It is then up to journalist Reiko Asakawa (Nanako Matsushima) and her psychic, estranged lover Ryuji Takayama (Hiroyuki Sanada), to discover the truth behind the tape whose viewers are left dead after 7 days.The set-up is simple, but the execution masterful. It may be a slow film, but it retains urgency with the 7 day countdown and a seemingly constant reveal of information.
Good horror is nothing without good humans however, and here we have a delightful trifecta. Reiko is a busy single mother, and yet this is never shown as putting a strain on her life. Her son Yoichi is wonderfully independent, getting his mother’s dress ready, and generally taking care of himself when needs be. After Ryuji is called to help, it is mostly for his psychic talents, and not because Reiko is scared or needy. Despite once being married, and Yoichi being Ryuji’s son, the script never manipulates simple melodramatic moments. Things are kept adult and professional between Reiko and Ryuji, which leads to more powerful glimpses into their emotions.
It’s a masterclass in subtlety that many films (including its American remake) fail to grasp. It mixes urban legend, paranormal goings on, with a distrust of technology.With the current nonsense hysteria surrounding Momo, a similarly themed Japanese creation that pops up in videos, slapped across social media and constantly shared, there’s no better time to return to an immersive classic that has stood the test of time. One viewing could very well be enough to stay with you for a lifetime, but with horror this good, you’ll want to rewind and play again even if you do risk dying in 7 days.
RING, will release in cinemas 1st March 2019. It will then release on Digital, DVD, Blu-ray, Limited Edition Steelbook, and Limited Edition Collection featuring Ring, Ring 2, Ring 0 and Spiral 18th March 2019.