1. Ring

[There are going to be spoilers in here. The film has been out 11 years though, so there must be some unwritten statue of limitations]

This is where it all started for me. Sort of.

Let’s wind back a few years. I was not completely ignorant of Asian Cinema. I remember a very enjoyable viewing of “A Chinese Ghost Story” one late night on Channel 4. I had a video copy of “Tetsuo”. My first ever import DVD after hacking my first DVD player was “Akira”.

But then all the “cool” kids had a copy of “Akira” right?

So anyways, I had been a student of Horror films for some time. Only the Classics of course – “Evil Dead”, “Halloween”, “Night of the Living Dead”, the usual suspects.

But I started hearing and reading about a couple of films from Japan that might pique my interest. The first was “Audition”. A strange, cold film that is 90% one thing and 10% another. I might talk about it in another post, so I will keep my powder dry for now.

The second however was “Ring”.

Now before discussing the film, I just want to get something off my chest. Some of us Westerners call the film “Ringu”, some call it “Ring”. Sometimes this is because some people are pretentious. Sometimes this is because this is what we are told it should be called by students of Japanese Cinema. The problem is that the opening scene of the film concerns some young girls discussing an urban myth, where they watch a cursed video, and a week later get a phone call after which they die. So you think the title refers to the ringing of the phone. As I understand it, “Ringu” refers more to the idea of a cycle, of things repeating themselves. Which is far more in keeping with some of the idea of the film. So therefore you ask – why are you calling the film “Ring”? Because that is what was on my Tartan DVD. And I am sticking to it.

The film itself is pretty good. It is not a film of many shocks, certainly no gore, but contains a wonderful ambience. The tension is amped up considerably over the course of the film, until the claustrophobic finale.

Of course the defining moment of the film happens some time before the end. This is when our little villainess Sadako makes her way out of the television set to kill our secondary hero Ryuji Takayama. It is a classic of the horror genre, and should be cherished as such.

The downside with the film is that it spawned a host of imitators, all containing “Ghostly Long Haired Girls” – or variations on that theme. Although, to be fair, I think the visual of Sadako is based on a classic Japanese ghost.

It is also of note that the film is based on the novel by Kôji Suzuki. The English translation is a pretty good read – and fascinating because of the differences (The lead is a male, Ryuji is a much more unpleasant fellow and there is no Sadako from the TV scene). Things get a little better explained in the novel too – be prepared for Hermaphrodites and smallpox.

There are various sequels and a prequel – and it all gets rather complicated. I am not going to go into it here – the brilliant website http://www.theringworldforum.com/ will explain it all for you. But in short – none of the other films come close. In fact (and whisper this) some are pretty awful.

This is the point of me including this film though. I was able through this film to discover the other Films, Novels and Manga in the Ring Oeuvre. I got lost in there for a little while, but made it back safe and sound.

Oh and one thing – if you go reading the Novels – be prepared for the third Novel “Loop” to be something quite different to that which you suspect. It is probably more science fiction than horror (although I think that categorisation is true of the three main novels), this is not a criticism, but a warning to the uninitiated. But then I have reviewed it before.

So in short – not the greatest film ever.

One of the great scenes.

And one addicted little me.

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