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review by rob gonsalves

Hideo Nakata

Hiroshi Takahashi
based on the novel by
Kôji Suzuki

Takashige Ichise
Shinya Kawai
Takenori Sento

Junichirô Hayashi

Kenji Kawai


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
running time: 100m
japanese release: December 11, 1998
video availability: VHS - DVD

see also:

- the ring (2002)
- the ring two

q&a home

A cursed videotape dooms any viewer to death within seven days.

Sounds familiar.

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 The 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 don't have access to video editing/copying equipment (whited out to preserve twist).

Any other thoughts?

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....

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