the novel by
Nanako Matsushima (Reiko Asakawa)
Hiroyuki Sanada (Ryuji Takayama)
Miki Nakatani (Mai Takano)
Yuko Takeuchi (Tomoko Oishi)
Hitomi Sato (Masami Kurahashi)
Yoichi Numata (Takashi Yamamura)
Katsumi Muramatsu (Koichi Asakawa)
mpaa rating: none
release: December 11,
availability: VHS -
A cursed videotape dooms any
viewer to death within seven days.
That's because DreamWorks remade
it in 2002, and Feardotcom
ripped it off.
So is Hideo
Nakata's original as creepy as it's been cracked up to be?
Oh, sure. Absolutely some moments
of maximum creep here, as when reporter Reiko (Nanako Matsushima)
first views the allegedly killer tape (a collection of baffling
Lynchian images crossed with the grainy freak-out ambiance of
Blair Witch Project), or when Reiko enters a room and
catches someone else watching the tape, or whenever the phone
rings (after the tape is over, a phone call confirms that you'll
die in a week), or Reiko's climactic discovery down a well, or
especially the appearance of the film's ghost in the flesh, as
it were -- it appears to have been filmed backwards, and its
resultant off-kilter motions are just, well, creepy.
Did it remind
you of any other movie?
Yeah. I can't know whether
M. Night Shyamalan would've had access to an import tape of this
when he was filming The
Sixth Sense, but the scene of Reiko's little boy (Katsumi
Muramatsu) fearfully ascending a flight of stairs and entering
a possibly haunted room has strong intimations of Haley
Joel's similar dread-ridden explorations (not to mention the
theme of a murdered girl trying to contact the living to seek
justice -- yet another way Feardotcom swiped from this).
So are you
saying this is a horror masterpiece that American horror fans
should go out of their way to own?
I wouldn't go that far. It's
a very good film, combining supernatural dread and police-procedural
stuff (the scenes wherein Reiko and her ex-husband deconstruct
the tape frame by frame in search of clues are worthy of -- and
likely inspired by -- vintage De Palma). Except for the tape
itself, Hideo Nakata's direction cannot be said to be bold or
even stylish; it's quite meat-and-potatoes (which can be refreshing),
and it relies more on its ingenious premise than on shocks or
gore (which can be very refreshing). Essentially it's
an old-school chiller with a new technological twist -- and the
twist is not so much the video medium as the revelation of how
to view the tape and survive. Which, I guess, would suck if you
access to video editing/copying equipment (whited out to preserve twist).
I was compelled, often creeped
out on behalf of the characters (especially those facing the
beat-the-clock plot construction, helpfully intensified by frequent
titles showing the date), but I can't help thinking that a movie
about a killer video, watched at home on video (VCD, whatever),
should make a viewer feel more personally threatened than
Ringu does -- you should feel as though, when the film
is over, you now need to copy it and show it to a friend (whited out again to preserve twist)
or die. Still, if my phone had rung after I'd ejected the DVD....