Ring (1998)


It’s Halloween tomorrow, and I decided to do things right by watching a Japanese horror movie. Incidentally, this was the movie of the holy trinity of J-horror that also were remade in America (the other two being Dark Water and Ju-on) that I haven’t seen.

While I saw the original Japanese Ring (リング, ringu) for the first time tonight, I saw the American remake (and the subsequent parody in Scary Movie 3) many years ago. I will definitely say the American version of The Ring was a lot better than the American version of The Grudge.

Ring is the now familiar tale of Reiko (the very pretty Matsushima Nanako), a journalist investigating the deaths of some teenagers. These teens died inexplicably, and the thing they had in common was having watched a mysterious video.

From the get-go, it’s clear Ring was made on a much tighter budget than its American remake. Special effects here were minimal. When Reiko got the phone call informing her she had one week to live, we don’t hear a creepy voice dubbed in telling her. We just see Reiko pick up the phone, and then react to what she heard. We don’t see Brian Cox commit suicide in the most grandiose fashion ever devised.

With that in mind, if you’re looking for a movie that’ll scare your pants off, Ring is not the movie you want to be watching. Rather, it’s more a mystery than a real horror movie as Reiko, along with ex-husband Ryuji (Sanada Hiroyuki), investigates the story behind the video (yep, this movie was from the era of the VHS, much like Biker Billy) as well as how to save herself. It’s a fairly simple Point A to Point B story. Reiko’s son is normal, rather than the creep with a poor relationship with Naomi Watts’ character in the American remake, and thus didn’t have his own distracting subplot.

Overall, Ring is a good way to kill an afternoon. It’s better to go into the movie with the attitude that you will be watching a mystery with supernatural elements. If you want a straight-up scarefest, you’re better off with the direct-to-video Ju-on: The Curse, which was made a couple years later. Admittedly, the mystery was ruined for me since I had seen the American remake, but the rest of the movie was different enough for me to feel like I was watching a completely different movie. I’m always one to appreciate Japanese subtleties as opposed to having an American movie conveniently spell things out, though I thought giving one character the ability to read minds did nothing but make the runtime a very manageable 96 minutes.

Score: 3/4