Adapted from Koji Suzuki's successful novel, Ring became a huge phenomena in Japan and has since become the country’s top grossing horror movie. It's success has continued overseas where, along with Takashi Miike’s Audition, it has been at the forefront in helping to establish a growing interest in Asian cinema, particularly the Asian horror film. Interestingly, Ring seems to play very differently — and to very different audiences — in Japan, than in the UK and North America. Whereas we tend to see it as providing a respite from the stale formula of ''Scream'' generation teen-horrors; something dark, brooding and exotic to counter the cheap, uncomplicated 'thrills' we've grown accustomed to - in Japan, it's vast success was partly due to its capturing the youth market by locating familiar elements of Japanese ''vengeful ghost'' legends within a modern Tokyo setting. To the western observer it is quite odd to see the bizarre range of merchandise the Ring franchise has spawned - not only several sequels and a tv show, but everything from candles to key rings! This is something we are only used to seeing in huge Hollywood blockbusters. It is hard to imagine a film as slow, subtle and complicated as Ring being such a huge hit with western teenagers. The closest we have come to this phenomena to date I suppose, would be the first part of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but even that is full of amazing special effects and exciting spectacles - Ring relies solely on the impetus of its narrative development and truckloads of atmosphere.
The film details the investigations of Reiko Asakawa (Nanako Matsushima), a young female journalist who is researching an urban legend that has been spreading amongst the youths of Tokyo. The story goes that anyone who views a certain video tape full of weird images including a strange girl emerging from a well, will receive a mysterious phone call which heralds the fact that they have only a week to live! Reiko finds that there are indeed strange deaths occurring among the cities youths-their faces contorted and frozen in fear. When her own niece, Tomoko( Yuko Takeuchi), becomes a victim, Reiko discovers she and her friends had indeed seen a video tape ... and all of them have also died! Following up on the story, Reiko visits the cabin where the friends stayed and comes across a strange video tape. She watches it ... and when she also receives a phone call immediately afterwards, she realises that the legend is true and that she is now under a death sentence. Reiko confides in her ex-husband Ryuji (Hiroyuki Sanada) a mathematician who also has psychic powers. Together they discover the mystery has something to do with a series of psychic tests on a woman called Shizuko, the wife of a Dr. Ikuma. As Reiko and Ryuji desperately try to think of a way to lift the curse Reiko is horrified to discover her young son Yoichi (Rikiya Otaka) watching the video tape. Now she must find out how to lift the curse to save her son as well as herself!
Hideo Nakata directed this creepy modern ghost story; it is actually the second attempt at bringing Suzuki's novel to the screen — the first being the previously mentioned TV series, which, although apparently following the source material more closely than Nakata's film, was by all accounts quite stunningly bad! The creepy video ghost Sadako is portrayed in the tv series by a buxom model who appears in the nude to claim her victims!
Nakata and screenwriter Hayashi Junichiro have taken the major elements of the original novel and come up with a film which oozes brooding menace from every frame. Without ever resorting to the usual cinematic tricks to get it's scares, Ring instead amplifies the very human fears inherent in its audience; the same fears that lead intelligent people to pass on chain letters, and cause all of us to feel nervous when alone in the dark, no matter how rational we think we are. And it builds to one of the most spine-chilling climaxes in modern horror, though not one drop of blood is spilled in the process. The way is left open for a sequel though, and Nakata obliged the following year with Ring 2.
This region 0 PAL DVD from Tartan Video comes fairly light on the extras, but the highlight is the full ''Sadako curse video'' complete with straight-faced distributor's warning! Apart from that we have a stills gallery, filmographies and a film review from Mark Kermode. The print Tartan have used isn't in the best of shape — there are some scenes early on where the screen is swarming with speckles and dust spots — but luckily this soon clears up, and the Anamorphic widescreen image is sharp and the colours solid. A slight sour point is that the burned in subtitles are hard to read in some scenes since they disappear against a white background!
This is not a film for gore hounds, but if you want an unsettling experience that gets creepier with every viewing, you can't go wrong with this imaginative chiller.