Japanese theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Hideo Nakata|
|Screenplay by||Hiroshi Takahashi|
by Kôji Suzuki
|Music by||Kenji Kawai|
|Edited by||Nobuyuki Takahashi|
Ringu/Rasen Production Committee
|Box office||¥1 billion|
Ring (リング Ringu) is a 1998 Japanese psychological horror film directed by Hideo Nakata, adapted from the novel Ring by Kôji Suzuki, which in turn draws on the Japanese folk tale Banchō Sarayashiki. The film stars Nanako Matsushima, Hiroyuki Sanada, and Rikiya Ōtaka. The film is centered around a reporter who is on the run to investigate the mystery behind a cursed videotape that kills the viewer 7 days after watching it.
Production took approximately 9 months. Ring and its sequel Rasen were released in Japan at the same time. After its release, Ring was huge box office success in Japan and acclaimed by critics. It inspired numerous follow-ups within the Ring franchise and triggered a trend of Western remakes, starting with the 2002 American film The Ring.
Two teenagers, Masami (Hitomi Satō) and Tomoko (Yūko Takeuchi), talk about a videotape recorded by a boy in Izu which is fabled to bear a curse that kills the viewer seven days after watching. Tomoko reveals that a week ago, she and three of her friends watched a weird tape and received a call after watching. Tomoko goes downstairs and witnesses her TV turn on by itself. She later hears startling noises and turns around, only to be killed by an unseen force.
Days later, Reiko Asakawa (Nanako Matsushima), a reporter investigating the popularity of the video curse, discovers that her niece Tomoko, and her three other friends, mysteriously died at the same time, on the same night, with their faces twisted in fear. She also discovers that Masami became insane from witnessing Tomoko's death and is institutionalised in a mental hospital. After stumbling upon Tomoko's photos from the past week, Reiko finds that the four teenagers stayed in a rental cabin in Izu.
Reiko goes to Izu and arrives at the rented cabin, where she finds an unlabeled tape in the reception room of the teenagers' rental cottage. Watching the tape, Reiko sees a series of seemingly unrelated disturbing images. As soon as the tape is over, Reiko sees a mysterious reflection in the television and receives a phone call containing the screeching sounds from the tape. Disturbed, she flees the cabin.
Reiko enlists the help of her ex-husband, Ryūji Takayama (Hiroyuki Sanada). They take a picture of Reiko and find her face blurred in the photograph. Ryūji then watches the tape, against Reiko's objections. A day later, Reiko creates a copy for Ryūji for them to study. They find a hidden message embedded within the tape saying "frolic in brine, goblins be thine". The message is in a form of dialect from Izu Ōshima Island. That night, Reiko catches her young son Yoichi watching the videotape, who claims that the ghost of Tomoko ordered him to watch it. Reiko and Ryūji sail for Ōshima and discover the history of the great psychic Shizuko Yamamura, who was labelled a fraud and slandered by the media and thus committed suicide by jumping into Mount Mihara, a volcano.
With only a day left, Reiko and Ryūji discover that the videotape was made psionically by Shizuko's lost daughter, Sadako Yamamura, an outcast whose supernatural powers surpassed even those of her mother. Reiko also has a sudden flashback of a young Sadako psychically killing a reporter who labelled her mother a fraud during a demonstration. The two go back to Izu with the assumption that Sadako is dead and her vengeful spirit (Onryō) killed the teenagers. They uncover a well underneath the cabin and through a vision see the circumstances of Sadako's murder by her father. They try to find Sadako's body in an attempt to appease her spirit. Minutes before her seven days are up, Reiko finds Sadako's corpse, and they believe that the curse is broken.
The next day Ryūji is at home and his TV switches on by itself, showing the image of a well. The ghost of Sadako crawls out of the well, out of Ryūji's TV set, and frightens him into a state of shock, killing him via cardiac arrest. Before dying, he manages to dial Reiko's number; she hears his last minutes over the phone and realizes the videotape's curse remains unbroken. Desperate to save her son, Reiko realizes that copying the tape and showing it to someone else saved her. With a VCR and Ryūji's copy of the tape, Reiko travels with her son to see her father in an attempt to save him, realizing that this is a never-ending cycle: The tape must always be copied and passed on to ensure the survival of the viewers.
Critics have discussed Ring’s preoccupations with Japanese tradition’s collision with modernity. Colette Balmain identifies, “In the figure of Sadako, Ring [utilises the] vengeful yūrei archetype of conventional Japanese horror”. She argues how this traditional Japanese figure is expressed via a videotape which “embodies contemporary anxieties, in that it is technology through which the repressed past reasserts itself”.
Ruth Goldberg argues that Ring expresses "ambivalence about motherhood”. She reads Reiko as a mother who – due to the new potential for women’s independence – neglects her 'natural' role as martyred homemaker in pursuit of an independent identity, subsequently neglecting her child. Goldberg identifies a doubling effect whereby the unconscious conflicts of Reiko’s family are expressed via the supernatural in the other family under Reiko’s investigation.
Jay McRoy reads the ending hopefully: if the characters therapeutically understand their conflicts, they can live on. Balmain, however, is not optimistic. She claims that the characters' survival relies on reassertion of patriarchy and she reads the replication of the video as technology spreading, virus-like, throughout Japan.
- Nanako Matsushima as Reiko Asakawa, a journalist who investigates her niece's death and finds the cursed videotape.
- Hiroyuki Sanada as Ryūji Takayama, Reiko's ex-husband, a former medical student turned university professor. He has a degree of sixth sense that detects supernatural auras.
- Rikiya Ōtaka as Yōichi Asakawa, Reiko's young son who also has a sixth sense like his father.
- Miki Nakatani as Mai Takano, Ryuji's student.
- Yūko Takeuchi as Tomoko Ōishi, Reiko's niece who watches the cursed videotape and is amongst its first victims.
- Hitomi Satō as Masami Kurahashi, Tomoko's best friend.
- Rie Inō as Sadako Yamamura, the antagonist of the film. A woman with psychic powers who was thrown down a well where she died, but her spirit lived on within a videotape.
- Masako as Shizuko Yamamura, Sadako's mother. She too had psychic powers but a disastrous press demonstration led to her suicide.
- Yōichi Numata as Takashi Yamamura, Sadako's uncle who runs an inn on Oshima Island.
- Yutaka Matsushige as Yoshino, a journalist associate of Reiko.
- Katsumi Muramatsu as Kōichi Asakawa, Reiko's father.
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Screenwriter Hiroshi Takahashi and director Hideo Nakata collaborated to work on the script after reading Suzuki's novel and watching Ring: Kanzenban, Fuji Television Network's 1995 made-for-TV film, directed by Chisui Takigawa. However, the TV version was re-edited and released on VHS under a new title, Ring: Kanzenban (Ring: The Complete Edition). Nakata did not state which TV version he and Takahashi watched.
In their film script, Takashi and Nakata changed the protagonist's gender (from male to female), name (from Kazuyuki Asakawa to Reiko Asakawa), marital status (from married to divorced) and child's gender and name (from daughter Yoko to son Yoichi).
With the budget of 1.2 million USD, the entire production took nine months and one week. According to director Nakata, the script and pre-production process took three or four months, shooting five weeks and post-production four months.
The special effects on the cursed videotape and some parts in the film were shot on a 35 mm film which was passed on in a laboratory in which a computer added a 'grainy' effect. Extended visual effects were used in the part in which the ghost of Sadako Yamamura climbs out of the television. First, they shot the Kabuki Theater actress Rie Ino'o walking backwards in a jerky, exaggerated motion. They then played the film in reverse to portray an unnatural-looking walk for Sadako.
Ring was released in Japan on January 31, 1998 where it was distributed by Toho. Upon release in Japan, Ring became the highest grossing horror film in the country. The film was shown at the 1999 Fantasia Film Festival where it won the first place award for Best Feature in the Asian films section.
Variety stated that Ring's "most notable success" has been in Hong Kong, where it became the biggest grosser during the first half of the year, beating popular American films such as The Matrix. On its 1999 Hong Kong release, Ring earned HK$31.2 million (US$4.03 million) during its two-month theatrical run making it Hong Kong's highest-grossing Japanese-language film. This record was later beaten by Stand By Me Doraemon in 2015.
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Ring was released to critical acclaim. Film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported an approval rating of 97%, based on 36 reviews, with a rating average of 7.6/10.The site's critical consensus reads, "Ringu combines supernatural elements with anxieties about modern technology in a truly frightening and unnerving way."
Sight & Sound critic Mark Kermode praised the film's "timeless terror," with its "combination of old folk devils and contemporary moral panics" which appeal to both teen and adult audiences alike. While Adam Smith of Empire Online finds the film "throttled by its over complexity, duff plotting and a distinct lack of actual action," Kermode emphasizes that "one is inclined to conclude that it is the telling, rather than the content of the tale, that is all-important." Variety agrees that the slow pace, with "its gradual evocation of evil lying await beneath the surface of normality," is one of the film's biggest strengths. Ring has been described as the most frightening film of all time by Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian's film critic. Ring is also listed as the twelfth best horror film of all time by The Guardian.
Ring was ranked #69 in Empire magazine's "The 100 Best Films of World Cinema" in 2010. In the early 2010s, Time Out conducted a poll with several authors, directors, actors and critics who have worked within the horror genre to vote for their top horror films. Ring placed at number 61 on their top 100 list.
The international success of the Japanese films launched a revival of horror filmmaking in Japan that resulted in such pictures as Kiyoshi Kurosawa's 2001 film Pulse (known as Circuit (回路 Kairo) in Japan), Takashi Shimizu's The Grudge (呪怨 Juon) (2000), Hideo Nakata's Dark Water (仄暗い水の底から Honogurai mizu no soko kara, literally From the Depths of Dark Water), also based on a short story by Suzuki), and Higuchinsky's Uzumaki (2000, aka Vortex, based on the Junji Itō horror manga of the same name).
Influence on Western cinema
Ring had some influence on Western cinema and gained cult status in the West.
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Hollywood horror had largely been dominated by the slasher subgenre, which relied on on-screen violence, shock tactics, and gore. Ring, whose release in Japan roughly coincided with the stylistically similar film The Blair Witch Project in the United States, helped to revitalize the genre by taking a more restrained approach to horror, leaving much of the terror to the audience's imagination. The film initiated global interest in Japanese cinema in general and Japanese horror cinema in particular, a renaissance which led to the coining of the term J-Horror in the West. This "New Asian Horror" resulted in further successful releases, such as Ju-on: The Grudge and Dark Water. In addition to Japanese productions this boom also managed to bring attention to similar films made in other East Asian nations at the same time such as Korea (A Tale of Two Sisters) and Hong Kong (The Eye).
Sequels and remakes
Japanese prequels and sequels
|Hideo Nakata Ring Timeline||Rasen Timeline|
|Ring 0: Birthday (2000)|
|Ring 2 (1999)||Rasen (aka Spiral, 1998)|
|Sadako 3D (2012)|
|Sadako 3D 2 (2013)|
Video game adaptations
American film series
The American remake follows the original closely although plot elements are altered or added in and Sadako Yamamura is reformed into Samara Morgan.
- American remake: The Ring (2002)
- American short film: Rings (2005)
- American remake’s sequel: The Ring Two (2005)
- American remake's third sequel: Rings (2017)
- Galbraith IV 2008, p. 402.
- "1998年（1月～12月）" (in Japanese). Motion Picture Producers Association of Japan, Inc. Retrieved October 13, 2015.
- The "Ring" Master: Interview With Hideo Nakata
- Belmain, Colette (2008), Introduction to Japanese Horror film (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press).
- Goldberg, Ruth (2004), 'Demons in the Family', in Planks of Reason, ed. Barry Keith Grant and Christopher Sharrett, (Scarecrow Press), pp. 370-385.
- McRoy, Jay (2007), Nightmare Japan: Contemporary Japanese Cinema (Rodopi).
- Meikle, Dennis (2005), The Ring Companion (London: Titan Books).
- Ringu (1998) - Trivia
- "Ring UK DVD"
- Kermode, Mark (2011), 'Review of Ring', BFI | Sight and Sound.
- "Movie Listings 1999". Fantasia Film Festival. Archived from the original on October 6, 2001. Retrieved February 3, 2016.
- "The Ring 2". Variety. Vol. 375 no. 11. August 2, 1999.
- Ma, Kevin. "Doraemon sets box office record in Hong Kong". Film Business Asia. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved March 4, 2015.
- "Ringu (Ring) (1998) - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes.com. Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 1 November 2016.
- Smith, Adam (n.d.), 'Review of Ring', Empire Online.
- Variety Staff (1999), 'Review: The Ring', Variety Magazine.
- Ring: the film that frightened me most, The Guardian, Tuesday 21 October 2014
- Heritage, Stuart (October 22, 2010). "Ring: No 12 best horror film of all time". Retrieved September 12, 2016.
- 'The 100 Best Films of World Cinema - 69. Ringu', Empire Magazine.
- "The 100 best horror films". Time Out. Retrieved April 13, 2014.
- NF. "The 100 best horror films: the list". Time Out. Retrieved April 13, 2014.
- Martin, Daniel (2009), 'Japan’s Blair Witch: Restraint, Maturity, and Generic Canons in the British Critical Reception of Ring', Cinema Journal 48, Number 3, Spring: 35-51.