Movie Project #30: Ringu [1998]

Due to the surprising success of my initial Movies Project, I decided to do a part two for 2012. This time around I put a greater emphasis on directors I am not familiar with, but I also tried to compile a mix of different genres and eras. This will be an ongoing project with the finish date being sometime this year.

Ringu [1998]

Ringu [1998]
Director: Hideo Nakata
Genre: Horror/Mystery
Starring: Nanako Matsushima, Miki Nakatani and YΓ»ko Takeuchi
Runtime:Β 96 minutes

My experience with Japanese horror movies is very, very limited. In fact, I can only remember seeing Audition, and that was many years ago. When I initially compiled my 50 movies project, it was suggested that I include something from the genre. As the highest grossing horror film in Japan, Ringu seemed like an obvious starting point.

Those who have seen the 2002 American remake, The Ring, are likely familiar with the premise. A group of teenagers have discovered a cursed videotape that will kill its viewers seven days after watching. A reporter, Reiko Asakawa (Nanako Matsushima), starts a personal investigation of this matter after it is rumored that her niece and a few friends died from the curse. Eventually she discovers the tape herself, watches it and then frantically has to find a way to reverse the process and stay alive. She gains help from her ex-husband Ryuji Takayama (Hiroyuki Sanada), but can they solve the mystery in time?

Ringu [1998]

By now, more than a decade later, the film’s more memorable moments have been ingrained into the pop culture canon. The creepy little girl with long black hair, the bizarre content on the videotape, the sudden appearance of a large eyeball — anyone with half a pulse will recognize these. The common perception, with these idiosyncracies in mind, is that Ringu is scary as hell. I was expecting to *finally* be scared by a movie, something that has never happened to me. Alas, I was surprised to learn that Ringu is more of a mystery film than anything.

Sure, the suspense is riveting and the atmosphere creepy, but there was never a moment where I became frightened. The eyeball was alarming, but that was more peculiar than anything. Taken as a horror film, this is a little disappointing. As a mystery, however, this is more intriguing.

Ringu [1998]

Even though I knew what to expect from most of the film, I was generally interested throughout. The slow build creates subtle tension, and while it has its more convoluted moments, the culmination into an epic 10-minute frenzy at the end is unforgettable. For some, though, I imagine this payoff is too little, too late.

Ringu is a good, solid film, but I feel that it has lost some of its flair over the years. The mystery story is well-crafted and the performances are strong, but it is mostly forgettable outside of a few select moments. That being said, I am definitely interested in seeing more of the genre.


Now I’m ready to revisit The Ring. What do you guys prefer? Ringu or The Ring?

34 thoughts on “Movie Project #30: Ringu [1998]

  1. UnderwoodUncut (@UnderwoodUncut) says:

    Good review, and you’re right that this works better as a mystery than a horror, but despite it feeling a little slow in places I would have to rank this as one of my favourite Asian horrors. I haven’t seen The Ring since it first came out, whereas I’ve revisited Ringu several times over the years.

    As for other similar films, I’d be inclined to recommend A Tale of Two Sisters.

    • Eric says:

      I think I may have been disappointed by my own expectations, as I wasn’t quite expecting a mystery film. Still, I enjoyed Ringu quite a bit, and I’m interested in seeing more from the genre. I’ll look into A Tale of Two Sisters — thanks for the recommendation!

  2. sati says:

    If you looking for more good asian horrors I strongly recommend Dark Water and especially Shutter, which is one of the scariest horror movies I’ve seen. I never saw Ringu but I absolutely adore american remake.

    • Eric says:

      I think I saw the remake of Shutter and it wasn’t very good. I’m curious to see the original, though. Will also keep an eye out for Dark Water — thanks!

      • sati says:

        Oh the remake was absolute shit but the original is fantastic. Also A Tale of Two Sisters is a stunning horror film, very creepy and beautifully shot.

        • Eric says:

          I definitely plan on catching A Tale of Two Sisters sometime soon. Didn’t realize that one is from Jee-woon Kim — loved I Saw the Devil!

  3. ruth says:

    I’m terrified even looking at that pic of the long-haired girl. I think Asian horror flicks are scarier than Western ones, I did watch a few but I don’t think I can handle ’em now.

    • Eric says:

      Haha, yeah I love how Japanese horror films have turned long-haired school girls into objects of terror. Ringu isn’t actually all that scary though. I think you could handle it. πŸ™‚

      • ruth says:

        Nah, I’m already terrified of long-haired Asian girls in horror flicks, the two Chinese horror movies I saw years ago still traumatized me!

  4. bbbgtoby says:

    The entire Ringu Trilogy is fantastic, I don’t generally like horror myself but there’s something about these ones.

    Also a shout out for Pulse by Kiyoshi Kurosawa to be added to your watchlist

    • Eric says:

      I’ll have to look into the other Ringu films. Can’t say I have heard much about the other two.

      Pulse is in my Netflix queue — thanks for the reminder!

  5. Anders says:

    I’m probably one of the few that prefers the Hollywood remake of Ringu (The Ring). Usually I don’t like remakes, I think they are a waste of money and “intellectual energy” (ie, they should make new, cool movies instead of copying movies already made), and most of the time they are so much worse than the original movie, or are so “distant” from the original that it would be better to call them something else. What is your “stand” on remakes? Btw, great review! πŸ™‚

    • Eric says:

      I’m with you on remakes. Very rarely are they actually worthwhile, and most of the time it just shows laziness from all involved. I do remember enjoying The Ring when I saw it years ago, but now I’m curious how it compares after seeing both.

      Sometimes remakes can be quite good but also completely unnecessary. I’m still not sure we needed David Fincher’s Girl with the Dragon Tattoo adaptation, but hey, we got a killer performance from Rooney Mara out of it.

      • Anders says:

        There seems to be two kinds of remakes. One type is where “Hollywood” sees a non-Hollywood/non-English version of a movie that do well in other areas of the world; then tries to adapt it to Hollywood measures, ie RinguThe Ring. The other is remakes of old (mostly successful) movies into new ones; ie Total Recall.

        You should do a article on this. Compare both versions of some movies, RinguThe Ring, old/new Total Recall and so on. It could some good watch at least, since most movies that are remade are at least good in one of the versions πŸ™‚

        Haven’t seen “Girl with the…”-hollywoodesque yet. The original ones are from Sweden (as am I :)), and the Hollywood version got quite bad reviews. But, never say never, it might be good πŸ™‚ Would be interesting to see Rooney. I liked the original ones quite much!

        • Eric says:

          Great point, and yeah that would be a good idea for a post. I may have to do that. πŸ™‚

          As for the Dragon Tattoo, Fincher’s version is actually quite good, it just feels completely unnecessary. Honestly, outside of a change to the ending and the addition of Trent Reznor’s soundtrack, there isn’t a whole lot that’s different. It’s certainly a well-made film, but I would be hard pressed to say it improves upon the already great Swedish original. Will be interesting to see if the sequels get green-lit at some point…

  6. Alex Withrow says:

    This is a rare instance in which I actually like the American remake better. I like the original just fine (and agree that both of lost some heft in the decade since the remake’s release), but yeah, Verbinski’s version works for me a little more.

    How about Audition? I mean… whoa.

    • Eric says:

      It’s been years since I saw Audition, but I remember it being pretty nuts. I am more than due to revisit that one.

      Still need to check out The Ring again. Interesting to hear that quite a few prefer the remake.

  7. WordsFallFromMyEyes says:

    It’s always good to have a surprising success! πŸ™‚ Good on you.

    I have heard of this film. I like the Japanese horrors. I will remember what you’ve said, next time I’m at the vid store.

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