Ring (1998)

Class: Staff
Author: Forrest Freund
Score: (4/5)
October 23rd, 2002

There are two things that I would like to say before I get down to business and write this review. First, there is something to be said about telling a story for the sake of telling a story. Second, there is a saying, which goes, "a copy is never as strong as the original." In the case of the movie Ringu, both are true. While the US version, The Ring, was a sorry excuse for a remake, as it turned a compelling and powerful ghost story into a horror movie for the sake of profit, the original Japanese version was a truly interesting and engrossing movie, and was true to the story of the book that spawned it. But I won't spend the entire review harping on the US version (as much as I would dearly love to tear the piece of sh!t apart), but will instead give my full attention to reviewing the original, and superior, version: Ringu.

Ringu, starts with a fairly mundane and benign event, that of two teenage girls gossiping about boys, sports and their recent trip to a resort spring. However, despite the carefree attitude they display, the lighting and setup gives the scene an eerie and foreboding sense. Right off the bat, we are shown a contrast with the girl's relaxed demeanor, and the ominous setting. This theme continues throughout the movie, where seemingly benign scenes are underscored with a sense of not-rightness through camera angles and lighting, but are never overtly menacing, such as wraiths flying about screaming, or making a place look like its not somewhere you would want to go. Even the cabin where the ghost of Sadako manifests itself is innocuous looking, and nothing but the production values used at the time indicate that there is anything dangerous about the place. At no time in the entire movie is there an overt attempt to horrify or frighten the viewer, but instead keeps them interested in the story unfolding on the screen, while keeping them aware that there is something not quite right about what is happening to the characters.

One highlight of the movie aside from the interesting way that the camera angels were used, is the fact that it is a good, solid ghost story and nothing more. It begins with the premise of a powerful and lethal curse being laid upon some innocent bystanders, and the race that two of them go through to lift the curse before it kills them. The plot is kept on topic, and there is no "fluff" in the screenplay, which keeps the movie going at a steady pace and keeps the audience interested in the events unfolding on screen. Also, there are layers to the plot, and as more and more are peeled away, the deeper we are drawn into the story and the more we invest in the characters. Another wonderful thing about the writing is that there is no unnecessary dialog. When there is a spot where it seems like the characters would or should be silent, they are.

Another highlight of Ringu is the acting. The characters are all well developed from not only good writing, but each of the actors brought an, in my opinion, excellent performance to the screen. Two favorites were the little boy Yoichi, and his father Ryuji, whom are both spiritually aware characters. The actors did a very good job of "reacting" to the curse when they were exposed to it, and to people who were affected by it.

The ghost of Sadako, the movie's "antagonist," is one of the more interesting characters, not because of her omnipresence in the movie, but because of her role in it and how her powers and curse manifest themselves. And not only is she an interesting character, but she has a very cool design to her. Most wraiths that are in movies are phantasmal, decayed looking things. Sadako, on the other hand, looks completely corporeal, is not decaying in any way. Also, the way that her hair completely covers her face makes her appearance all the more mysterious and otherworldly.

The music in this piece is another tool to add to the mystique of the piece, and it helps to set the mood of not quite rightness in the story. When things are meant to be chilling, the music is chilling. When it is meant to be hopeful, the music is hopeful. However, the music in the piece takes a second seat to the story, and is correctly used more as a mood tool than as a tempo meter. And because this is a ghost story, it works just fine in this way.

Overall, I would highly recommend Ringu to anyone who likes a good ghost story with an original concept and interesting characters with plenty of plot twists. If you've seen the US remake (I know, I know, I said I wouldn't mention it again. Deal with it), I would encourage you to see the original, because, in my opinion, the copy is never as good as the source, and if you liked the US trash, you'll love the original. And if you have no intention of seeing the U.S. version, I would still recommend this movie, because it is, in my opinion, so different. Over all, I would say that it is a great movie, and is definitely worthy of praise.