Oh look! I watched another movie! Actually, I watched two movie last night but only one was a ghost movie, Ringu, so that’s what I’m writing about here.
The other movie was, well, um, insane? I don’t know what it was. But Paul F. Tompkins narrated it along with Matt Gourley and a live score so that was pretty rad. It was this thing!
Anyway, the whole night was part of this October Halloween insanity that’s been happening over at Cinefamily. Same folks that did the Hellraiser triple feature last year. Yup. I love them.
The screening for Ringu last night was actually pretty special as well. Director Hideo Nakata was there and did a q&a after the movie which was great.
So here we are. After missing most of this week, I’m back at Day 26 with the J-Horror classic, Ringu.
Ringu – Japan, 1998. Dir. Hideo Nakata, Screenplay Hiroshi Takahashi. Starring Nanako Matsushima, Hiroyuki Sanada.
Oh Ringu. How do I feel about Ringu? I mean, I like it. It has some really great moments and the ending is completely WTF. I also like that it’s very much so a movie of its time. I talked a little about this earlier in the month when I wrote about its American remake The Ring. But I think this all applies even more to the original Japanese film than to its American counter part.
Why? Well, because while The Ring is about the analog technology and most of the story still wouldn’t work set in our current world of internet, iPhones, and youtube, it still uses a lot of digital and CGI technology in its making. Ringu on the other hand is not only about the analog cursed video cassette, its entire production is about creating that old VHS feel. Nakata didn’t use any CGI, everything you see in Ringu is practical effects. Which makes The Ring look like a more sophisticated film but leaves Ringu with a more organic feel.
Part of me is sort of sad I saw The Ring before I ever saw Ringu. I think if I had come into Ringu knowing less about what I was about to see, I would have appreciated what it does a little more. It’s more of slow burn of horror film, there are lots of quiet moments that lead up to that one terrifying WTF of an ending. And honestly, as awful as Samara is crawling out of the TV, the actress playing Sadako (a dancer btw) moves in this completely disjointed, insane way that is just uncomfortable to watch on so many levels. It works in The Ring but it REALLY works in Ringu.
It also helped a lot watching Ringu in a theater, on film, and not at home on my DVD player. I think it really needed that extra little something film gives to movies.
And I know there are a lot of things about Ringu that aren’t great. While I appreciate the slow build up, I don’t think it really works here. There’s a little too much nothing happening. There are a lot of parts of this story that could have been better developed, it gets really melodramatic at times, and while I appreciate the practical effects, some of them are a little silly.
But I don’t know, I still have a soft spot for this movie and I really appreciate its place in the whole J-Horror movement. Up until Ringu proved a hit, horror in Japan was relegated to b-movie, straight to video productions. Ringu brought J-horror to the international stage and for that, I love it.
I also really appreciate Nakata’s commitment to bringing horror back to the simple and the possible. I think that while Ringu is maybe not completely successful in terms of a film, it’s a great campfire ghost story. It taps into a lot of cultural anxieties. And, if nothing else, it made it possible for Nakata to make more movies including Dark Water which I LOVE. It’s success also made more J-horror possible, and not just J-horror but Asian horror in general. Ju-on, A Tale of Two Sisters, Dark Water, The Eye… there’s a lot of great Asian horror out there (there’s also a lot of bizarre Asian horror out there like Spiral or Suicide Club). Regardless of whether or not Ringu is the best, it was the first* and that’s pretty awesome.
*I should clarify that I’m just talking about the recent movement in the late 90’s to 2000’s. Japanese horror goes way back. For example, in the late 80’s there was Tetsuo: The Iron Man. Or if you really want to look back in the ghost movies, there’s always stuff like Ugestu, one of my favorite movies. Basically, Japan is just fantastic when it comes to the horror movies.