Ringu ( Hideo Nakata,1998 ): Japan
Reviewed by Kelvin Matthews. Viewed on DVD.
While I was introduced to Japanese cinema early through a mixed ancestry and a love for Japanese Cinema, the Japanese horror film Ringu (Ring) simply took my breath away with its originality and the terrifying mood it sets. Not since I was a child did a film have me literally closing my eyes and peeping through my fingers in terrifying suspense and anticipation of what was to come. While most films can find their inspiration and style in Classic Hollywood filmmaking this film has also been an inspiration to Hollywood as many Hollywood filmmakers have come to adapt a number of the special effects and other techniques found in this film since its release in 1998.
Adapted from the novel by Koji Suzuki of the same name this film set the standard in traditional Japanese ghost stories and begin a new genre in Japanese cinema known today as J Horror which relied less on special effects, but more on tension building suspense and a feeling of psychological horror. With this films originality and simply superb directing and production techniques this film has become a classic and simply one of the best films I have ever seen. Directed by Hideo Nakata “Ringu” became the highest grossing motion picture in Japan upon its release and is considered one of the greatest horror films ever made.
“Ringu,” also known by its English name “Ring” tells the story of Reiko Asakawa (Nanako Matsushima) who is doing research on a video tape that is deemed to be cursed. While she is interviewing teenagers about the tape, she is told her niece Tomoko (Yuko Takeuchi) has died of what seems to be of sudden heart failure, but she soon discovers that there is more to her niece’s death then she first thought, so Reiko decides to investigate. As she begins her investigation she discovers that some of Tomoko’s friends were just with Tomoko at a cabin that they had went to on holiday, just one week before Tomoko’s death. She then finds out that those same friends had later died on the same night as Tomoko and shocking as well, they also died at the same time as her niece and in what seemed to be the same way as Tomoko and with the same look of horror on their faces that Tomoko also had.
In shock and with concern Reiko goes to the cabin to investigate further. What she finds in the cabin is a video tape and although there is no label on the tape she decides to watch it and in horror she discovers it is the cursed video tape she was previous doing her research on before her niece’s death. Reiko then turns to her ex husband Ryuji, (Hiroyuki Sanada) in hopes that he can help her solve the mystery. Reiko then makes a copy of the tape for Ryuji, but to their surprise, their son Yoichi (Rikiya Otaka) watches the tape and tells his mother and father that Reiko’s dead niece Tomoko asked him to watch the tape. As Reiko continues her investigation, they are led to an island where they learn the history and truth about the mysterious tape.
Upon first watching this film I was amazed with the impact this film had on me and how that impact was accomplished. Combining what first seems like a crime mystery into a horror film this film was excellently written and directed and pioneered a theme of it’s own in horror films. While Classic Hollywood horror films seemed to send a chill down my spine as a child and in my early teenage years, that chill had not been felt on the same level in high school and now university my years, but this film bought those feelings and emotions back and on a much larger scale as the building up of suspense and horror on an emotional as well as psychological level was simply overwhelming and made this film a horror to watch. “Ringu” does not disappoint, but is simply a landmark in horror filmmaking that does not have the distraction of too much and obvious special effects and other technology, but makes the audience see a film that is meaningful and genuinely real. “Ringu” focuses on the narrative of the film and the meaning of that narrative which results in a superb story and excellent acting.
While present day Hollywood horror films seem to require a certain task, or action in the story to make the audience feel a sense of horror and suspense, this film was superb and simply amazing in the fact that the suspense and horror in this film could easily be seen and felt in the mood this film sets. While a number of factors can contribute to that mood such as the dead silence and purposely grainy look of some of the scenes in this film, as well as the superb lighting and use of angle’s that the director masterfully controls, the most horrifying of those factors can be seen in a ghost which simply does nothing more then walk across the screen. As she walks in a slow and sometimes jerky motion that walk and look on the screen simply sends a sense of fear and chills through your soul that was unlike anything I had felt before.
Although I loved this film, this film also made me feel as if I was living a nightmare and wanted to escape, not only to get away from the psychological horror I was feeling, but also to preserve my own sanity and to save myself from the nightmares that I felt were to come. The presence of this ghost or being makes you admit that she is there although you may not want to face it, but the sensation that this story and that this ghost makes you feel is so horrifying that it borders on the verge of possibly being disturbing for some, but well worth the view.