||home / september 2002 / feature
By Dillon Font
Okay, so the quick breakdown in the plot, the one-liner you throw at your friends, trying to convince them to see this movie with you, would probably go as follows:
"So, this dead girl creates a cursed video, and those who watch it die within one week"
Immediately, this brings to mind the inherent cheesiness that purveys many in the horror genre, and thus, doesn't at all seem like the sort of movie you'd seriously want to go see. Yet, the creators of Ring obviously did something right, because the fervor that it has caused is amazing. Since its release in 1997, it has remained an insanely popular rental title in Japan, as well as spawning two sequels, a prequel, and a manga adaptation. From its target audience of the loose-sock wearing high school girls to the older salarymen, Ring has become one of the more popular, and profitable, properties in Japan.
The film opens up with Tomoko, a high school girl, and her friend hanging out at her house alone. Her friend is telling her the latest urban legend going around, that a lot of kids have been dying recently under mysterious circumstances. Evidently, all these kids are watching some mysterious and weird video. Upon its completion, the phone rings, informing those who watched it that they will die within one week. Tomoko doesn't take well to this news, as the same events happened a week before when she and friends went on an overnight trip somewhere. Before the night ends, Tomoko is found dead, and her friend has gone insane from whatever transpired.
Enter Reiko Asakawa, a Tokyo TV reporter who is investigating this urban legend. As these movie plot points start going down, the viewer finds out that Reiko was Tomoko's aunt. Discovering that the events in her life are eerily matching the ones described in the urban legend, Reiko starts to look into it. She finds that all of Tomoko's friends also died that night, all the autopsies indicating that their hearts stopped, all with a fright-filled scream frozen on their faces.
Wanting to find out what happened with Tomoko and to garner an excellent news report out of it concurrently, Reiko goes to Izu, where Tomoko had been last week with her friends. At the local rental store in Izu, she finds a mysterious tape with no label or other forms of identification. Of course, as these things happen in horror movies, she sits down and watches the cursed tape. After the bizarre jumble of images stops, the phone rings. She picks up to hear the eerie static that was on the video, and she's convinced; she has one week to live.
Determined to figure out how to take off the curse, she gets the help of her ex-husband, Ryuji, who also places himself in danger by viewing the video. The case gets more serious, however, as Reiko walks in to find her son also watching the video. It's a race against time as Reiko and Ryuji attempt to discover the mystery behind the video and vainly try to save their own lives.
What do they discover? Somehow, this tape is linked to a woman who, 40 years prior, had predicted a volcanic eruption. Taken to Tokyo for experimentation on the existence of ESP, she had also brought her daughter, who also exemplified certain psychic phenomenon. As they uncover more of these past events, they figure out that the daughter, a girl named Sadako, had the power to psychically kill those against her, in much the same fashion that Tomoko and her friends had died. The movie spirals from there, as the two heroes race against the time limits in their attempts to save their lives, and to make sure that this curse doesn't continue.
While the movie at first doesn't seem to possess any special sort of "oomph" that would create such the fervor that it has, the underlying creepiness that director Hideo Nakata infuses within the film is what makes this movie such a memorable piece of cinema. By presenting such an everyday activity as watching a video a gateway into a world of murder and fear, Nakata is easily able to move the audience into the plot of the film. The level of suspense is also raised by Nakata's powerful use of sound within the film. Following a good horror staple of not visually showing the audience every detail, Nakata increases the power of the unseen image by the use of sound. The static sound track to the cursed video pervades the movie, creating the feeling of inescapability that the characters are going through.
The formulas that Nakata utilized obviously had an amazing effect, for not only did Ring rapidly become a cult classic in Japan, but the influence of Ring is also spreading throughout the world. The Hollywood studio DreamWorks, so impressed with this film, has gotten the rights to create an American film based around the same ideas as the original. Due out in October, the film will introduce to the American audience en masse to the fear of the Ring. Are you ready for it?