“One curse, one cure, one week to find it” is Ringu’s tag-line and a succinct plot synopsis if there ever was one. Personally I’d say something like; “Teens find weird video in a cabin. It’s a heart-stopping experience.” The title might look somewhat familiar to American readers. The Ring, starting Naomi Watts, was an American remake of Ringu filmed four years after the release of the original.
Beware, there be spoilers ahead! I’ll try to keep them to a minimum though.
I sat down to watch Ringu knowing pretty much what to expect. After all I’ve seen the American version at least twice. I thoroughly enjoyed the remake, and I’ m happy to say the original doesn’t disappoint. Ringu just dives right in…laying out the urban legend that drives the plot within the first few scenes. Folks watch a mysterious video tape. Once it’s done, they get an odd phone call. One week later, they’re dead. Reiko Asakawa is a journalist digging into the story, when her niece becomes part of it. She digs deeper and deeper and…
…well…watch it to find out. Suffice to say, shenanigans ensue.
This is a creepy movie, folks. Not in the same way as the American version is creepy. The American version is more of a “Boo! Haha I scared you!” kind of creepy. No…Ringu is less in your face and more in your mind. I think some of that has to do with the limited special effects. There was no extensive use of CGI like you find in the remake. The film makers had to be more subtle by necessity. It works well though. There is an atmosphere of unease over the whole film. I can’t quite put my finger on what specifically gives me that impression: it’s more of a combination of factors. Obviously I’m predisposed to find this creepy because I saw the first one and it creeped me right the hell out. And I was alone in the house when I watched Ringu. In the dark. But eliminating those factors (since they have little to do with the ambience of the movie itself) I would say the sound effects are largely responsible for the effect…
…or rather the lack thereof. This was a really quiet movie. Just some ambient noise here and there where appropriate. A large part of the movie seemed….mundane. A snapshot of everyday life in late 90’s Japan. So when you actually heard something other than the whir of your VHS player (you all found this movie in a mysterious cabin in the woods too….right? …right?) you know it’s time to get worried. I found the music weird in its own right. Sometimes it was drums. Other times something screechy and discordant (usually during a “Boo!” scene). Or it’s something that reminded me of a cross between feedback and a swarm of buzzing insects.
Something else, I think, gave this one the creepy vibe. It goes back to the special effects. They aren’t as pretty as the remakes, but it’s their very normalness that makes them creepy. It looks almost real. Oh and the well scene! Pretty spooky on the remake…the girl moves with these weird herky-jerky movements. Same deal in Ringu…but as I said not done with CGI. They actually filmed a kabuki actor, kabuki is a theatrical style that emphasizes exaggerated gestures and jerky motions to show emotion, walking backwards. Then, they reversed the film to make it look as if he were moving forwards. It results in an odd gait…like the person’s joints are stiff. Like they’re…locked with rigor mortis maybe? And the faces! The faces of the dead I mean. They look sort of mummified in the remake..but in the original they’re normal, but with their eyes wide and their mouths locked into a silent scream. Spooky, no?
There was one thing I didn’t care for…well okay I thought it took away from the creepiness a bit because I found myself chuckling. Asakawa’s son Yoichi was a little first grader…and he was completely wooden. I swear there was no expression on this kids face the entire movie. He just sort of drifted along, as if seeing some creepy ass video and his mom freaking out were all par for the course. The kid just trudged along…hell I bet he could stare down the creepy ghost girl and not even flinch!
One more thing (spoiler alert….if you haven’t seen the movie, go watch it then come back). Okay…those of us who’ve watched Ringu (or the remake) know that the curse is only broken when you copy the tape, and show the copy to someone else right? But I keep thinking…shouldn’t the ghost give you an extension if you see the movie more than once? I mean..the message is pretty cryptic and all…it’s in the ghost’s best interest to propagate this thing as much as possible so you’d think allowing some sort of an extension would be something it should do, right? A week tacked on each time you watch the tape…just watch it once a week and you’re good! No having to sucker a friend into watching something that could potentially kill them (like this).
Another thing…does the ghost keep up with formatting? I’d guess the whole copying a VHS thing isn’t working so well just about now. This could go two ways I think. The ghost could have stuck with old school VHS, which by this point means it has basically gone extinct because I would imagine not a lot of people watch VHS in Japan, nor do they have the gumption to copy one if they did. Or..the ghost could have updated. Imagine: you see some creepy as video on some unlabeled DVD you found in a cabin. Your first thought: man that was weird! Your second: Youtube!
So since we’ve not all seen a veritable holocaust of Youtube junkies, I’m thinking the former is more likely than the latter…
…er…right. Got off track there. Ringu…give it a watch. It won’t disappoint. I promise.
And for God’s sake…if something seems to be crawling out of your TV….don’t sit and stare at it! RUN!