Nanako Matsushima
Directed By:
Hideo Nakata

For those who have seen the American remake, Ringu will tread familiar territory, all the while giving a noticeably different angle to the same plotline. The story behind Ringu is about a mysterious videotape that once viewed causes the viewer to die in exactly seven days. While this "urban legend" seems like nothing more than the campfire tales of teenagers, it becomes a hard, horrible reality when the niece of a reporter (Nanako Matsushima) and her friends all die mysteriously. The reporter hunts down the tape and before too long is drawn into a mystery that she and her ex-husband must solve before her time, and that of their son, is up.

Once they dig deep enough, they discover a dark child, Sadako - an unnatural monstrosity that proves to be the source of the tape. Because of the ex-husband's psychic ability, he sees the events of the girl's life as they travel to where she lived and where she ultimately died. Unlike the remake, Sadako is fairly inhuman and once she does arrive in the movie, her mannerisms are so off-kilter, you can't help but be creeped out by them.

The way that Ringu is shot is far more reserved and even calm, which makes the moments of horror all the more intense. The story slowly builds, revealing more and more about the source of the tape and why it causes people to die. The acting and direction are all exceptional and the film does a lot without the need for special effects. In fact, you won't see much in the way of visual extravagance until the end of the film. Don't take this as a bad thing. The simplicity inherent in the film makes it easy to get into for those who don't speak Japanese. Yes, the film is subtitled. And thankfully so as an English dub would not deliver the same amount of emotion that the actors display on-screen without potentially falling into a certain level of cheese.

No review of Ringu can go by without the obvious comparison to the remake - The Ring. Your take on this film will largely be shaped on if you see Ringu or The Ring first. If you see Ringu first, the strength of the film will land hard on you, leaving you unsettled as the slow building horror pinnacles at the end. If you've seen The Ring first, Ringu may come across as a little too reserved for you. It's still a great film, but the remake tends to be more intense and constantly chips away at you. I found the videotape more intense and subversive in the remake than Ringu, but a lot of people have stated that to fully grasp Ringu, one has to read the book and really get into the Japanese sequels and manga.

With that said, Ringu is still a fine piece of cinema, especially for horror and import fans. Considering that The Ring is set to have a sequel, anyone who hasn't seen this original flick should go down to your video rental store and give it a try. It's good to at least have the perspective of the original material by which to measure the American version by.

- - Vane

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