ⓘ Ring (film)

Ring (film)

ⓘ Ring (film)

Ring is a 1998 Japanese horror film directed by Hideo Nakata, based on the 1991 novel by Koji Suzuki. The film stars Nanako Matsushima, Hiroyuki Sanada and Rikiya Ōtaka, and follows a reporter who is racing to investigate the mystery behind a cursed videotape that kills the viewer seven days after watching it.

Production took approximately nine months. Ring and its sequel Rasen were released in Japan at the same time. After its release, Ring was a huge box office success in Japan and was acclaimed by critics. It inspired numerous follow-ups within the Ring franchise and triggered a trend of Western remakes, starting with the 2002 American film The Ring.


1. Plot

Two high schoolers, Masami and Tomoko, talk about a videotape that was allegedly recorded in Izu and also bears a curse that kills the viewer in one week. Tomoko reveals that a week ago, she and three of her friends watched a strange tape and received a call after watching. The two are interrupted by a phone call, but it turns out to only be Tomokos mother. However, as soon as Masami returns upstairs, Tomoko witnesses her TV turn on by itself. She later hears startling noises and turns around, only to be killed by an unseen force.

Meanwhile, the same cursed video story is being investigated by Tomokos maternal aunt; newspaper reporter Reiko Asakawa. As such, when Reiko and her young son Yoichi are at Tomokos funeral, she discovers that three of Tomokos friends also died on the same night, with their faces twisted in fear. While investigating Tomokos room the next day, Reiko notices a photo receipt and goes to pick up the photo copies. Looking through Tomokos photos, Reiko finds that the four teenagers stayed in a rental cabin in Izu, and that one of the photos shows their faces are blurred. Eventually, Reiko heads off to the cabin, but not before Yoichi claims to have learned that Tomoko saw the cursed tape.

Reiko arrives at the cabin in Izu, and eventually attempts to get information from the clerk. In the process, Reiko notices an unlabeled tape on the rental shelf, and picks up the tape to see for herself. The tape shows a series of seemingly unrelated and disturbing images. As the tape ends, she sees a mysterious reflection in the television and receives a phone call. However, there are only screeching sounds from the tape. Fearing that her days are now numbered, Reiko quickly leaves the cabin with the tape.

Her ex-husband, Ryūji Takayama is soon enlisted to investigate the tapes origin. The next morning, Ryuji discovers that Reikos face is blurred in a photo, much like those of the teenagers were. Despite Reikos objections, Ryūji watches the tape and tells her to make him a copy, which they start reviewing the next day, aside from a brief interruption from Ryujis student Mai Tokano. Studying further, the two find a hidden message embedded within the tape saying "frolic in brine, goblins be thine". The next morning, Ryuji has found that the message is in the form of a dialect from Izu Ōshima Island. Two nights later, while the two are staying with Reikos father, Reiko catches Yoichi watching the videotape, claiming the ghost of Tomoko asked him to do so.

Reiko and Ryūji sail for Ōshima and discover the history of the great psychic Shizuko Yamamura. They stay in an inn run by Takashi, Shizukos brother. Ryūji discovers that Takashi exposed Shizuko to the media, hoping to make money from the situation. The media attention attracted Dr. Heihachiro Ikuma, who, besides researching ESP, had an affair with Shizuko. Dr. Ikuma held a demonstration, where Shizuko successfully displayed her psychic abilities. However, one journalist spitefully denounced her as a fraud, inciting his other colleagues to do the same. In retaliation, Shizukos daughter, Sadako, psychokinetically killed the journalist, with his face twisted like Tomokos and her friends. Shortly after, a series of slanderous reports drove Shizuko to commit suicide. Meanwhile, Dr. Ikuma was fired and took Sadako to an unknown location.

Reiko and Ryūji deduce that Sadako psionically created the cursed videotape to express her fury against the world. After an epiphany, the two go back to Izu and uncover a well underneath the cabin. Through a vision, they discover that Dr. Ikuma murdered Sadako and threw her body into the well. They try to find Sadakos body in an attempt to appease her spirit. Minutes before her seven days are up, Reiko finds Sadakos corpse, and they return home, relieved that the curse is seemingly broken.

The next day, however, when Ryūji is at home, his TV switches on by itself and shows the image of a well. The vengeful ghost of Sadako crawls out of the well, out of Ryūjis TV set and frightens him into a state of shock, killing him. Immediately before his death, Reiko had tried to call Ryuji; so she hears his last minutes over the phone and finds out only she is free from the curse. Desperate to save Yoichi, Reiko realizes that copying the tape and showing it to someone else was what saved her. So with a VCR, Reiko drives to her fathers house, where she plans to let her son copy the tape and show it to her father.


2. Cast

  • Yōichi Numata as Takashi Yamamura, Sadakos uncle who runs an inn on Oshima Island.
  • Daisuke Ban as Dr. Heihachiro Ikuma, Sadakos father who threw her down a well.
  • Nanako Matsushima as Reiko Asakawa, a journalist who investigates her nieces death and finds the cursed videotape.
  • Rie Inō as Sadako Yamamura, a girl with psychic powers who was thrown down a well where she died; her spirit lived on within a videotape.
  • Rikiya Ōtaka as Yōichi Asakawa, Reikos young son who also has a sixth sense like his father.
  • Yutaka Matsushige as Yoshino, a journalist associate of Reiko.
  • Katsumi Muramatsu as Kōichi Asakawa, Reikos father.
  • Miki Nakatani as Mai Takano, Ryujis student.
  • Hitomi Satō as Masami Kurahashi, Tomokos best friend.
  • Yūko Takeuchi as Tomoko Ōishi, Reikos niece who watches the cursed videotape and is amongst its first victims.
  • Masako as Shizuko Yamamura, Sadakos mother. She too had psychic powers but a disastrous press demonstration led to her suicide.
  • Hiroyuki Sanada as Ryūji Takayama, Reikos ex-husband, a former medical student turned university professor. He has a degree of sixth sense that detects supernatural auras.

3. Themes

Critics have discussed Ring ’s preoccupations with Japanese tradition’s collision with modernity. Colette Balmain identifies," In the figure of Sadako, Ring vengeful yūrei archetype of conventional Japanese horror”. She argues how this traditional Japanese figure is expressed via a videotape which" embodies contemporary anxieties, in that it is technology through which the repressed past reasserts itself”.

Ruth Goldberg argues that Ring expresses "ambivalence about motherhood”. She reads Reiko as a mother who – due to the new potential for womens independence – neglects her natural role as martyred homemaker in pursuit of an independent identity, subsequently neglecting her child. Goldberg identifies a doubling effect whereby the unconscious conflicts of Reikos family are expressed via the supernatural in the other family under Reikos investigation.

Jay McRoy reads the ending hopefully: if the characters therapeutically understand their conflicts, they can live on. Balmain, however, is not optimistic; she reads the replication of the video as technology spreading, virus-like, throughout Japan.


4. Production

After the moderate success of the Ring novel, written by Kōji Suzuki and published in 1991, publisher Kadokawa Shoten decided to make a motion picture adaptation of Ring.

Screenwriter Hiroshi Takahashi and director Hideo Nakata collaborated to work on the script after reading Suzukis novel and watching Ring: Kanzenban, Fuji Television Networks 1995 made-for-TV film, directed by Chisui Takigawa. However, the TV version was re-edited and released on VHS under a new title, Ring: Kanzenban Ring: The Complete Edition. Nakata did not state which TV version he and Takahashi watched.

In their film script, Takashi and Nakata changed the protagonists gender from male to female, name from Kazuyuki Asakawa to Reiko Asakawa, marital status from married to divorced and childs gender and name from daughter Yoko to son Yoichi.

With the budget of US$1.2 million, the entire production took nine months and one week. According to director Nakata, the script and pre-production process took three or four months, shooting five weeks and post-production four months.

The special effects on the cursed videotape and some parts in the film were shot on a 35 mm film which was passed on in a laboratory in which a computer added a grainy effect. Extended visual effects were used in the part in which the ghost of Sadako Yamamura climbs out of the television. First, they shot the Kabuki Theater actress Rie Inoo walking backwards in a jerky, exaggerated motion. They then played the film in reverse to portray an unnatural-looking walk for Sadako.


5. Release

Ring was released in Japan on January 31, 1998 where it was distributed by Toho. Upon release in Japan, Ring became the highest grossing horror film in the country. The film was shown at the 1999 Fantasia Film Festival where it won the first place award for Best Feature in the Asian films section.

Variety stated that Ring s "most notable success" has been in Hong Kong, where it became the biggest grosser during the first half of the year, beating popular American films such as The Matrix. On its 1999 Hong Kong release, Ring earned HK$31.2 million US$4.03 million during its two-month theatrical run making it Hong Kongs highest-grossing Japanese-language film. This record was later beaten by Stand By Me Doraemon in 2015.


5.1. Release Home media

The Ring was released directly to home video in the United States by DreamWorks with English subtitles on March 4, 2003.

To coincide with its 20th anniversary, Arrow Films issued a Blu-ray version of Ring on March 18, 2019 in the UK. Additionally, a Blu-ray box set featuring Ring, the sequels Rasen and Ring 2, and prequel Ring 0, was also released. The transfer features a 4K resolution restoration that was scanned from the films original camera negative. The picture grading and restoration, which took place at Imagica Labs in Tokyo, was supervised and approved by Ring cinematographer Junichirō Hayashi. Both Arrows Blu-Ray restoration and the Blu-ray box set were later released in the United States on October 29, 2019.


6. Reception

The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film an approval rating of 97% based on 38 reviews, and a weighted average of 7.58 out of 10. The websites "Critics Consensus" is that the film "combines supernatural elements with anxieties about modern technology in a truly frightening and unnerving way."

Sight & Sound critic Mark Kermode praised the films "timeless terror," with its "combination of old folk devils and contemporary moral panics" which appeal to both teen and adult audiences alike. While Adam Smith of Empire Online finds the film "throttled by its over complexity, duff plotting and a distinct lack of actual action," Kermode emphasizes that "one is inclined to conclude that it is the telling, rather than the content of the tale, that is all-important." Variety agrees that the slow pace, with "its gradual evocation of evil lying await beneath the surface of normality," is one of the films biggest strengths. Ring has been described as the most frightening film of all time by Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian s film critic. Ring is also listed as the twelfth best horror film of all time by The Guardian.

Ring was ranked No. 69 in Empire magazines "The 100 Best Films of World Cinema" in 2010. In the early 2010s, Time Out conducted a poll with several authors, directors, actors and critics who have worked within the horror genre to vote for their top horror films. Ring placed at number 61 on their top 100 list.


7. Influence

The international success of the Japanese films launched a revival of horror filmmaking in Japan that resulted in such pictures as Kiyoshi Kurosawas 2001 film Pulse known as Circuit 回路, Kairo in Japan), Takashi Shimizus The Grudge 呪怨, Juon 2000, Hideo Nakatas Dark Water, also based on a short story by Suzuki), and Higuchinskys Uzumaki.


7.1. Influence Influence on Western cinema

Ring had some influence on Western cinema and gained cult status in the West.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Hollywood horror had largely been dominated by the slasher sub-genre, which relied on on-screen violence, shock tactics, and gore. Ring, whose release in Japan roughly coincided with The Blair Witch Project in the United States, helped to revitalise the genre by taking a more restrained approach to horror, leaving much of the terror to the audiences imagination. The film initiated global interest in Japanese cinema in general and Japanese horror cinema in particular, a renaissance which led to the coining of the term J-Horror in the West. This "New Asian Horror" resulted in further successful releases, such as Ju-on: The Grudge and Dark Water. In addition to Japanese productions this boom also managed to bring attention to similar films made in other East Asian nations at the same time such as Korea A Tale of Two Sisters and Hong Kong The Eye.

All of these films were later remade in the US. Released in 2002, The Ring reached number 1 at the box office and grossed more in Japan than the original.


8. Sequels and remake

The original sequel was Rasen, however, due to poor reception, a new sequel, Ring 2, was released in 1999 which continued the storyline of this film. Then, it was followed by a 2000 prequel, Ring 0: Birthday. A television series, Ring: The Final Chapter, was made, with a similar storyline but many changes in characters and their backstories. An American remake, The Ring, was made in 2002.

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