Ringu (Ring) (1998)

japanring4Hideo Nakata influenced many a people, from the directors in Asia whom created all sorts of ghost films deriving from “Ringu’s” element with ghosts that are able to come in to our world through electronic devices, to what’s become the norm for Japanese ghosts: the pale girl with long damp black hair. I’m not as big a fan as others when it comes to Japanese horror, but I appreciate half of what we’re introduced to, and “Ringu” is one of those films I appreciate. I just had to see this, basically since I ended up really liking the remake, “The Ring”. Yes, I’m one of those few who enjoyed it. Either way, Nakata’s direction is something that I found to be the most impressive aspect of “Ringu” because the man knows how to mount tension and then alleviate it with a stunning shot to the arm that works.

Unlike the American counterpart, Nakata keeps our pivotal character Sadako in the darkness and we barely get a glimpse of her. She never speaks, and we only really get a glimpse of her evil eye in the climax. Nakata takes the considerably short running time and uses it to his advantage taking the ghost and using her more as a dread-filled presence rather than flashing her in front of us all the time. And the plot here is basically the same as the American counterpart, but with many more deeper subtexts and sub-plots that make it more enriching. Asakawa is a television reporter who loves to exploit victims, but when she discovers a connection between the deaths of high school teenagers in the city, and decides to uncover this mystery and unveils the tape that started the murders. Nanako Matsushima is much more relatable as our heroine than Naomi Watts, because her role really isn’t so one-dimensional.

Here she’s more a neglectful mother whose own career has taken her away from her son, while the American version beat over our heads that she was a neglectful, cold, woman whose own child didn’t matter. In spite of what everyone has basically said, I really enjoyed Gore Verbinski’s remake of “The Ring” simply because it was so engrossing, and his direction helped the mood perfectly. So, when I finally finished with the original “Ringu” I was a bit disappointed, not because I was comparing them, but basically because most times the original is better. “Ju-On” was much better than it’s bastardized American remake “The Grudge”, so I was disappointed to find out that the tension here was basically minimal. While Nakata’s direction is dark, there’s never enough tension to really draw me in, and the character emphases is much too superficial for what I was expecting. Considering Asakawa’s son views the tape halfway through, there’s not enough focus on that, and he disappears halfway through the film.

Meanwhile the sub-plot and back story go on much too long and there’s too much of a meandering exposition to really become enveloped in. Meanwhile, I didn’t find Ryuji enough of an interesting character to become the central focus for the second half of the film. I never understood what prompted his telekinetic abilities, nor his ability to see what happened exactly. Matsushima becomes a more sympathetic character whose own career goals to break free from tabloid fodder came around to bite her in the ass. Nakata’s direction is very eerie with enough murkiness and foreboding tension to keep us watching on pins and needles. “Ring” also begins with the two girls discovering the ring tape is in fact a grim reality and ends with the utterly creepy climax that works better in the original simply because Nakata’s simplifying of the scene make it all the more ingenious.

Watching Sadako come from out of the television is slow and gradual and really does pay off with a slight shot of her eye that really does our main character in, and the delivering and sheer odd movements of her approaching works well. “Ringu” also sports a rich background and a very seething back story that make “Ringu” from a short film to a short film with a deep rich story that has the possibilities for further entries without feeling forced upon its audience. In spite of some underwhelming elements and meandering sub-plots, “Ringu” is a very good Japanese horror film that pretty much started the trend of Japanese Horror being injected in to American horror. While the story is engrossing, and the acting top-notch, Hideo Nakata’s direction is the primary reason to watch.