Ring

Director: Hideo Nakata

1998

Ring Hideo Nakata“It’s a deceptively simple premise for a ghost story. A cursed videotape is being circulated. Anyone who watches it will die seven days afterwards.” (870, Adisakdi Tantimedh, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

Ring singlehandedly revived the horror genre for the end of the twentieth century, spawning two sequels, a prequel, a Korean remake, and an overlooked but hugely successful Hollywood remake (directed by Gore Verbinski), not to mention influencing dozens of horror films from all over the world.” (870) I admit that while I am a bit of a chicken I absolutely love scaring myself so horror films are right up my alley. I vividly remember going to see Gore Verbinski’s Hollywood remake when it came out in 2002 when I was a teenager with a group of friends. We scared ourselves so much that we ended up having a bit of an impromptu sleepover – safety in numbers and all that! Watching it late it’s still jumpy but not nearly as terrifying as we initially found it to be. That cannot be said for Nakata’s original however which still manages to reduce me to a gibbering wreak.

Japanese horror just takes everything to a whole other level. They tell stories in such a different way and can be much more graphic in their visual media. They’re not lying when they put something in the Asian Extreme category. And there is just something so innately creepy about the way they use children in their horror films – Ring is certainly not an exception with the image of the little girl crawling out of the television remaining with me long after watching the film.

Ring is very dark and atmospheric – full of layers o shadows, perfect for creating an environment where any number of things could be lurking waiting to pounce. Music and sound are so important within the horror genre, more so than any other genre with the exception of musicals. As Tantimedh says “there are no cheap shock effects here. Instead, Nakata relies on sound and atmosphere to suggest the presence of the unquiet dead hovering over the living, poised to strike.” (870) and that’s certainly the case. The music is so intrinsically linked to the images that it loses some of its power or intensity when watched on mute. The choice of music and sounds used is chilling and really directs your emotions and expectations. A child laughing became inordinately terrifying within the context of Ring.

The film deals with a relatively short time frame – just over a week as it’s central to the entire plot. I think part of what makes the film so creepy is the low quality of the infamous video. Not the film itself, because despite being made almost 15 years ago it still holds up well, but the cursed video. I’m not sure if it would have the same impact if it were a DVD just due to the difference in quality and lack of degradation. And seriously who knew static could be such an object of fear? I still don’t understand the compulsion to watch the video. Everyone seems quite blasé about watching it, most likely refusing to believe it has any power but I would be steering well clear of it myself.

“Director Hideo Nakata achieves a steady sense of mounting disquiet throughout the film.” (870) For all Ring has moments that leap out at you it doesn’t become truly scary until the appearance of Sada. It’s a slow building menace that becomes more tangible the closer they get to solving the mystery behind the murderous video. And then just when you think it’s all over that’s when it jumps out and gets you, right in the last minutes of the film. Way to make an impression Nakata! Sada’s movements are disjointed and jarring and there is added terror in only ever seeing one of her eyes through the impenetrable curtain of her hair. After all the greatest tool in any horror director’s kit is the imagination of the audience itself.

 

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