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Ringu (1998) Review

by Yo Adrian on November 13th, 2019 | | , , , , ,

Ringu was directed by Hideo Nakata (who also directed Ghost Theater and Chatroom) and stars Miki Nakatani (from Loft, Ringu 2), Hiroyuki Sanada (from Life, Sunshine) and Yuko Takeuchi (from Creepy). It’s about a cursed VHS tape that results in the death of anyone who sees it and a young journalist on a mission to uncover its origins in time to save her own ass.

One curse, one cure, one week to find it.

Ringu Review

Ringu was such an influential horror movie for its time that it effectively kicked off a surge of original J-Horror that continues to this day, over 20 years after its release. It was followed by two sequels, Ringu 2 and Ringu 0, an American Remake, The Ring, and two remake sequels, The Ring 2 and Rings. These were followed by two more Japanese sequels, Sadako 3D and Sadako 3D 2. And then of course it had to follow in the footsteps of Freddy vs Jason and have its own epic supernatural villain showdown: Sadako vs Kayako (The Ring vs The Grudge).

Ringu was based off a novel from 1991 and was first adapted to film in a made for TV movie released in Japan. The Ringu novel also had sequels called Spiral and Loop.

So, needless to say, this has been a seriously successful franchise. And for good reason, Ringu just works on so many levels. It has a deep plot, fantastic characters and a thick dreary atmosphere that seems to permeate every scene.

I don’t think it’s as scary as The Ring remake, but that could be because the American remake was geared for an American audience, of which I’m part of. Ringu was tailored for a Japanese audience which means it triggers fears that I don’t culturally have. For example, Sadako’s appearance was apparently very taboo. Her white dress was made to resemble a traditional burial gown and her frazzled long unkept hair supposedly resembles that of a dead body. These details really struck a chord with those in the know. Also, Reiko, our protagonist, is a divorced woman over 30 years old who can’t find the time to take care of her young son while maintaining her struggling career. To me, this is just a fairly typical story. But in Japan, at least up until recently, this was a huge taboo that crossed social boundaries. No matter how attractive, unmarried women older than 25 are called “Christmas Cakes”, because nobody wants to eat a stale Christmas treat after the 25th. A harsh obstacle Reiko had to deal with alongside solving supernatural curses and saving a bunch of people who she knew looked down on her.

Ringu reminded me a lot of Kairo (Pulse), another fantastic J-Horror, in that it’s a slow burn with thick atmosphere and a steady feeling of hopeless dread throughout. Ringu is a very well-made movie with muted tones and an eerie score that kicked off the Japanese horror craze that thrives to this day.

Worth Watching?

If you like J-Horror, than absolutely, it’s the movie that started it all. Also good for anyone who appreciates slow burn character-rich horror movies.


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