Retro Rewind: Ringu

Ringu

1998

Sub-Genre: Supernatural

Directed by Hideo Nakata

Starring Nanako Matsushima (Reiko), Hiroyuki Sanada (Ryuji), Rikiya Otaka (Yoichi), Rie Ino (Sadako) and Masaka (Shizuko)

Konnichiwa everyone, and welcome to another edition of RETRO REWIND, a look back on the horror genre we all know and love. This week, I jump into the first film that turns 21 (everyone’s favorite drinking age). With each entry, I will be looking at films that have both defined the genre or those that deserve a second look. Yes, this is a retrospective, but unlike most, this is meant to be fun, much like the films are. I have a list of rules to keep these uniform, which are as followed:

  1. The film must be legally old enough to drink

  2. Positivity is key. Even if the film is terrible, they’re supposed to be fun and I want to have as much fun watching and writing these as possible.

  3. I will recommend how I believe you should view it: Own It, Rent It or See It…If You Really Need To

So without further ado, I present to you the 21-year-old (on January 31) Japanese film, Ringu.


Most American movie going audiences will be more familiar with the 2002 remake, The Ring. That’s not a terrible thing, as The Ring is a fantastic remake and keeps to the spirit of this one, while also making it a more American film for the target audience. However, this has been a detriment to Ringu, as the similarities are almost too close, many people feel no need to see a “foreign film”. Yet Ringu is not just a Japanese original of a film we already know so well. This film is brilliantly places, superbly acted and just as scary as someone would expect.

The film starts with two teenagers talking about a haunted V/H/S tape and a sexy rendezvous at a cabin. Soon, one of the teens, who doesn’t really believe she watched a killer tape, is killed in horrifying fashion. We then follow a reporter, Reiko, as she deals with the loss of her niece and motherhood. Though Reiko thinks this is a joke, many citizens believe the hype, even going so far as to appear on the news and talk about how cool the tape is. During her investigation, Reiko finds the tape, watches it and fears she will die in 7 days. Her ex-husband, Ryuji watches it the next day and their son, Yoichi, a few days later. The struggle to not die, save her family and find out the truth about the tape leads Reiko to an island off the shore, where the inhabitants were scared of a little girl who could murder people at will.

Much like the version most are accustomed to, this film is terrifying and still holds up today. I’d go as far to say it’s even scarier. The tape is seen only a few times instead of ten, the girl from the well (in this known as Sadako) is rarely seen and the score is haunting, crafting a very eerie film from the get-go. The death faces (I think that’s the best word for them) are more realistic, thus more terrifying and they aren’t shown to you with a stinger. They’re just shown.

This is also a family drama as much as it is a horror film. Reiko’s relationship with her ex-husband and son are very strayed, yet she wants to protect them just as much as she wants to figure out the meaning of the tape. Her ability to make you feel every emotion is a master craft of acting. Ryuji is also troubled, and you do not know exactly why, however, his face shows his decision to leave his family weighs on him constantly. You feel it very hard when he dies (DUH!).

The Ring is hands down one of the best remakes of all time, but it does not negate the fact that Ringu is a fantastic film that scares you while also making you care about the family in danger. Many would say just watch the remake to avoid subtitles and whatnot, but honestly, both are incredible films, and both deserve just as much adoration as they have gotten.

Best Kill: It’s Ryuki and you know it is. The absolute terror, the time it takes and the fact that he has no escape is exactly why horror was invented.   

Best Moment: There’s a lot to like here, but the emotional scene with Reiko in the well with Sadako’s body is beautiful. It’s dark and sad, as she believes this poor little girl was killed out of a misunderstanding instead of what she is able to do with her mind.  

Drink Choice: So unlike previous examples, with these “Freshly 21” horror films, I want to give you a beer pairing with it. Here, I recommend the Japanese lager, Kirin’s Ichiban Shibori Premium. A crisp, lemony and soft lager will fill the drinker with just as much emotion as Ringu does.

Rating: Own It. This is by far my favorite non-Studio Ghibli Japanese film and it deserves every ounce of love it has received. It is still a damn scary film, with expert filmmaking techniques used and a criminally underrated and haunting score.

From this writer comes a warning, filled with gore and with fear. Join my in two weeks, as the fourteenth draws near.