The Japanese movie that was remade in America as The Ring. Asakawa (Nanako Matsushima) is a reporter investigating mysterious deaths (including that of her niece Tomoko), all occurring one week after the victims watched a strange videotape. Asakawa locates the actual tape and watches it. With seven days to live, in desperation she shows it to Ryuji (Hiroyuki Sanada), her ex-husband and father of their young son Yoichi (Rikiya Ôtaka). The two figure out that the tape is a curse made by Sadako (Rie Ino’o), a vengeful girl who could kill someone just by wishing it. Asakawa and Ryuji have a few days to find Sadako and lift the curse—the sooner the better, because Yoichi also watched the tape.
Those used to the American remake may feel a bit of culture shock (though there are Western influences present, including a box of Ritz crackers and Ryuji writing an essay in English). In the remake, Rachel, like Asakawa, is a harried single mom, but she gets a babysitter for her son. Yoichi, who’s six, stays by himself while Asakawa works late. Yoichi is expected to be much more mature than his American counterpart. While getting ready for his cousin’s funeral, he asks Asakawa, “How come Tomoko died?” She responds, “Probably some disease. Zip me up.” Then there’s the scene when Rachel catches Aidan watching the tape. She sweeps him into her arms, asking, “Why, baby, why?” Asakawa shakes Yoichi, shouting, “Yoichi! Did you bring this? Why? How dare you?” I don’t feel one culture is superior; I’m just amused by the contrast.
Speaking of contrast, if you’ve seen and liked The Ring or Ringu, then the book they’re based on may not be for you. Asakawa is a man, Ryuji is his buddy from college and a self-proclaimed rapist, and Sadako is in their 20s, with much discussion granted to their male and female genitalia. A few scenes in the book are potentially offensive, like the passage when Asakawa finds out his wife Shizu watched the tape: “For the first time in his married life, Asakawa felt a desire to hit his wife. ‘You…idiot!’” and my favorite, Asakawa’s conversation with a cab driver who witnessed the death of a cursed tape viewer: “Oh, the driver, he was a prep school kid, nineteen years old. He died, the idiot.” I actually liked the book, but it’s not for everyone.
Even if I didn’t enjoy the movie (which I do), there would still be a place in my heart for it, since it’s my first Asian horror movie. Before I saw Ringu, I had no idea how amazing foreign horror movies could be (my first had been an underwhelming vampire flick from Denmark called Angel of the Night). It opened up a whole new world for me. The premise is a little dated (seeing as how VHS tapes have gone by the wayside), but still original. The acting is decent and the special effects are great. And best of all, though it starts out a bit slow, it’s really scary. Give it a look if you’re in the mood for an intense, frightening watch.