Ring (1998)

Class: User
Author: Hank Xavier
Score: (4/5)
May 27th, 2006 [Review May Contain Spoilers]

Today, Japanese horror seems to differ both in style and passion with the known and highly-regarded American horror, it is clearly a bit of a more personal type of terror, a grip of rage that can enter the far phycho tempo most people at the Great Empire ignore. This mainly is caused in a great deal by the lidicrous need of violence and gore most yankees look for when watching a so called scary film. They seem to believe guts and blood are effective most of the time, and they have proven to enjoy that, while it is still obvious, very obvious, that in very few cases violence works. Just on those movies that the viewer doesn't expect to find violence at all. On the other hand, Japanese horror doesn't relay on dropping high loads of graphicness into the screen, but to twist the viewer 's mind at every moment, with disturbing visions of past moments.

The original Ring of course enters this selected category, and it is still a fairly decent example on how is it that Japanese horror works; and how much someone can endure this kind of stuff, with it's half-catatonic, half-noir atmosphere. It was directed by veteran Hideo Nakata, a man who seemed to select the best story to start with. While he did some remarkable changes to the novel, the basic spirit is still there (literally), and most of characters remain, if not changed. Every moment of this movie is relaxed, but in a somber way. In all scenes, people expect something to happen, and when it doesn't happen, you feel worse. Many of the footage found is not comparable to any USA movie, which once again brings the Japanese stereotype.

The story starts with two young girls, that are having a pleasent conversation regarding silly teenager stuff. The conversation ends its pleasure when one of them brings up a new and frightening topic. According to her, a strange videotape kills every person who sees it in a week's period, in which a long-haired woman comes out of the TV screen to claim it's victim. The other girl becomes uneasy, and asks for more information. She then claims to have seen the video with her friends while having a camp in Izu. Soon enough the phone rings, which startles both girls, as they have known the misterious woman always rings to warn the victim's future death. Luckily it's just one of the girl's mother.

The very next day we find out that the girl who watched the tape died. Her aunt, reporter Asakawa begins interviewing a bunch of kids looking for more stories about the curious video. All of them narrate the story about the woman coming out of the TV, and about a teenage couple that died in their car. Asakawa soon finds out these were her niece's friends, and that they saw the video as well. She then proceeds to go to the local coroner video library, were she sees the video about the time when the couple was found. The teens' corpses seem to have no scratch, but instead a shocked-like expression on their faces; this confirms they died of fear.

In order to find out even more, our beloved journalist travels to Izu, where she finds the notorious videotape, abandoned in the Hotel's video collection. She takes the cassette into her house, and watches it. The said video depicts an image of a mixed newspaper, while then shows the eruption of Mount Mihara. It later displays the word "Sada", while it fades into a projection of a well, and some creepy hands crawling out of it. Just as soon as the content finishes, the phone rings. Asakawa of course answers, but no voice is heard. Instead we hear some sort of mosquito-like sound. Now is up to her to find out what the hell happened, before she becomes the next victim.

The pacing of this movie is appropiate, there is no time in which you can get bored; and the fact they decided to show a lot of facial expresions instead of a lot of dialogue, makes this a more personal movie, as stated above. Most of the small details are left in their right place in the movie, instead of being dropped all over the plot, as seen in the 2002 american remake, which killed all of this. In fact, the whole reworking of the screenplay made it lose the grand disturbingness of video, as it had to be updated for the new plot.

Most performances stick good in their roles. The main character, played by Nanako Matsushima really does a decent work on being both a struggling person and a mother, that must protect her child from a forgotten being. And while it is evident the stars cover most aspects here, there is still one thing left untied, which is the extra's work. They are given close to non-importance, and while it is true they're extras, there is still some genuine respect needed to make them fit their roles. But then again, extras in Japanese movies aren't really a big part of the show.

Music here isn't abundant, since silence makes here a more eerie terror; yet the sonorized parts really are a big deal here. Known composer Kenji Kawai (Ultraman: Nexus), provides the film with a different type of score than what we usually hear in a horror flick. The themes resemble in most cases like nature sounds: mosquitos, wind, you name it. This of course is a reference to the wilderness, as the main plot about the spirit and the well was set on a forest. There is a main cue, heard when we say the dates, which works as a countdown for the character's lives. In the end we get an anime-resembling tempo, and a song, which is a good way to close the story, and get ready to begin the sequel.

As for the special effects, much isn't there to be commented. This type of horror doesn't require much in the way of special effects, it is mostly based on visual chalenges. Still the scenes featuring the ghost at the end have some decent work, we get a very convinicing dead person, coming out of the TV as expected, and in a slow, puzzling way.

It is a great pity the sequels weren't put the heart and effort seen here. It seemed that after it's great success, they fought it could capitalized with anything, and took for granted their merits. But that enforces greatly this movie, and it's many variants will never acomplish what was shown here. With an original plot, a disturbing premise, and a rather unique score, this will always be one of the best horror films of this time.