Ringu – Review
by Miguel Douglas on December 31, 2009
The highest grossing horror film in Japan, Hideo Nakata’s 1998 film Ringu is what many consider the advocate for the Japanese horror boom. It’s a film, through all its subjectivity, that is considered the most frightening horror film in Japan and has received worldwide recognition for being so, eventually leading to the 2002 American remake, The Ring.
Ringu opens with two girls named Masami (Hitomi Sato) and Tomoko (Yuki Takeuchi) discussing the infamous “Cursed Tape” legend. Masami tells Tomoko that when one watches this cursed tape they will die seven days later. When Tomoko confesses that she has watched a tape like the one mentioned in the legend, Masami doesn’t quite believe her and convinces Tomoko that the legend is not true. When Tomoko does unexpectedly die, questions abound regarding the plausibility of the legend. We then enter Tomoko’s aunt, Reiko (Nanako Matsuhima), a reporter who begins to investigate the tape after her niece dies. With the help of her former husband Ryuji (Hiroyuki Sanada), the two begin to discover the truth behind the legend.
Ringu is one of those films that handles itself in such a manner that makes it seem utterly believable due to its execution. The use of seemingly everyday technology as an outlet to promote evil and death provides the film with a rather believable outlook, and in a sense delivers a more intimate experience for the viewer because of it. Given this, the plausible nature of the how the story is constructed gives the film a realistic flair, and its deviation from the standard horror conventions helps furthers this. The motion from disbelief to belief is perhaps one of the films strongest elements, mainly because we witness alongside the characters the slow realization that the myth they once thought was untrue is sadly not, and they must race to figure out how to stop the curse from taking them as well. It helps that the acting ability is convincing and the seriousness of the film is not hindered down from sloppy overacting on part of the cast.
The film has an ominous sense of dread that permeates its running time, and it’s astonishing to see that director Nakata doesn’t rely on any visual gore or violence to engage the viewer. Rather, we get fantastic use of sound and standard imagery in its place, and in many instances, they provide a more dreadful atmosphere than any use of gore ever could. The minimalistic use of gore works in favor of the film and having the viewer not being pummeled over the head with it is rather refreshing considering the genre.
Ringu is a film that ultimately changed the direction for Japanese horror cinema. Whether this was for the betterment of the genre or not is up for debate, but Ringu effectively delivers a chilling story that seems even more appealing after you watch it. There are moments within the film that will stay with you long after viewing it, and I believe its longevity is important, especially for a film stemming from the horror genre. Quite the opposite from the proposed curse in the film, Ringu is a film I definitely recommend viewing for it’s unnerving and terrifying experience.