Koji Suzuki’s 1989 novel started a phenomenon, which includes two Japanese adaptations and sequels, a Korean remake, graphic novels, a musical— and Hollywood’s The Ring.

The first half of this film is nearly identical to Ringu, transplanted to America. The second half diverges in significant ways.

Cast, Crew, and Other Info:

Director: Gore Verbinski

Writers: Koji Suzuki, Ehren Kruger.

Features: Naomi Watts…Rachel Keller
Martin Henderson…Noah Clay
David Dorfman …Aidan Keller
Jane Alexander…Dr. Grasnik
Brian Cox…Richard Morgan
Shannon Cochran…Anna Morgan
Daveigh Chase…Samara Morgan

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A sinister videotape circulates. If you watch it, you will die in seven days. A reporter tracks the tape to an island and the mystery of Samara Morgan, a missing girl no one’s trying to find.

High Points:

The videotape. If the images on this tape don’t make you uneasy, you may not be human. They’re creepier than the Japanese version. My friend, Singularity Girl actually found it difficult to watch the spoof of this videotape in Scary Movie II, so badly did the original shake her.

Not only do these images ultimately appear as we uncover the truth, the film features frequent visual echoes of the imagery, a technique which induces suspense and paranoia.

Low Points:

The gratuitous Samara-related effects and abilities such as, for example, the fly that crawls off the screen, or the mysterious cloud of flies that emerge when they uncover the ring. It’s not enough that this version doesn’t fully explain the mystery: they had to throw in additional elements that look cool, but make no sense.

Due to the limited explanation and the manner in which the ending is scripted, the final twist plays a little too much like a cheap joke at our expense. The conclusion remains creepy, but the Japanese version handles it much better.

The Scores:

Originality: 3/6 .

Effects: 5/6.

Story: 4/6: This movie will certainly disturb you. Its handling of the story, however, leaves unanswered questions and plot holes. Most obvious on the list: how did Cabin #12 get built on its present location?

Acting: 5/6: Well-done all around, though Dorfman plays (and was obviously written and directed to play) little Aidan too creepily sophisticated to no real end.

Production: 5/6

Emotional Response: 5/6 Flaws aside, this film will haunt you for awhile.

Overall: 5/6.

In total, The Ring receives 32/42.

Ringu and The Ring

Ringu fully develops its backstory and also the implications of that story. The effects are never gratuitous, as is the case in The Ring; they all relate to the backstory. The approach to the material also differs. In Japan, both Shizuko and Sadako have been studied– of course they have– and this fact, while not widely-known, can certainly be uncovered without too much effort. In The Ring, we’re left largely in the dark as to Samara’s true origin, and along with vital clues, we receive creepy effects which have no clear connection to the story. However, we do receive some disturbing insights into Miss Morgan’s childhood that are missing from Ringu, and these have a haunting effect of their own.

In Ringu, any number of people know (and anyone can learn) that Sadako existed though, of course, they would not connect her to the videotape. Secrecy surrounds Anna Morgan, however; The Ring gives us sealed medical records, stolen evidence, and conspiracies of silence.

In Ringu, the story of the cursed videotape has spread far and wide though people take it no more seriously than most urban myths. In The Ring, the story does not appear to be too widely-known though it is clearly in circulation.

The Japanese version has a tighter and (if taken on its own terms) more believable story. The American version has creepier visuals. In the end, however, Ringu and The Ring are so similar that the scarier of the two will be the first one you see.

Perhaps Electric Ferret should pit Yamamura Sadako against Samara Morgan. It could be the greatest thing since Godzila vs King Kong. Of course, I’ve already proffered my version of the epic battle’s outcome, in the year 2004.

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