“You don’t want to hurt anyone.”
“But I do and I’m sorry.”
In the early 2000’s, Asia went through a big horror boom. Ghostly apparitions that some have called “dead wet girls” populated many movies for a time, and directly influenced films on the other side of the world. Hollywood remade a lot of J-horror movies. Most of the remakes were lame (some were holy shit awful) but there were a few highlights of the era, and I consider Gore Verbinski’s remake of Hideo Nakata’s Ringu to be the best of the bunch.
The Ring is a horror movie about urban legend detailing a videotape that kills you seven days after watching it. What seems like a spooky ghost story becomes horrifyingly real for the viewers of the tape, as they are haunted by supernatural visions.
It’s a fine mystery in addition to being a horror film, as investigative reporter Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts) follows the clues in order to lift the curse. What I like is, the film explains the why of the mystery but never gets into the how. And that’s a good thing, because some of this is so otherworldly that scientific explanation would hurt the story more than enrich it.
As a remake, it’s a pretty faithful adaptation. There are two major departures. In Nakata’s Ringu, the “ring” of the title only refers to the telephone ring, not the visual ring. The addition in Verbinski’s film is a clever one. It not only adds the film’s most memorable visual of a flickering ring, but it also provides the poster’s tagline: “Before you die, you see the ring.” The other major difference is that in Ringu, the ghost is not the only supernatural thing to the story. The boyfriend of Rachel’s Japanese equivalent has psychic abilities and he’s passed it onto the son their son. There’s none of this in Hollywood’s The Ring. I cannot say which is better, psychic Hiroyuki Sanada or totally normal Martin Henderson; it likely comes down to what version you saw first.
You know, I miss the J-horror craze. It was a time when international horror cinema was widely seen by all and the fans could look forward to seeing the new movies by Japan’s best horror filmmakers not long after the releases in their home countries. The world got to know the films of Hideo Nakata (Dark Water), Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Pulse), Takashi Shimizu (Ju-On: The Grudge), Shinya Tsukamoto (Tetsuo: The Iron Man), Takashi Miike (Audition). Now, the craze is over and the remakes have died off, so most people count that as a win. But it’s come at a cost, in that fans overseas don’t get to see the new Nakata, Kurosawa, Shimizu, etc. films anymore.
Plus, some of the remakes weren’t bad. The Ring is a solid film, regardless of your general opinion on remakes. And in the larger scheme of things, it gave director Gore Verbinski his first big box office hit (the man would go on to direct Pirates of the Caribbean) and also helped make Naomi Watts a star (she remains a favorite actress of mine). It’s one of the best studio horror movies of the past couple decades. If you dismissed it during the J-horror craze as more of the same, it’s time to give it another look. Damn good horror movie.
Writer of horror, science fiction, and dark fantasy. Lover of books and film. Lifelong Godzilla fan. Reluctant blogger.
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