There's a new urban legend making the rounds. They say there's a mysterious tape out there. After you watch it, the phone rings, and a voice tells you that you only have one week to live. For reporter Reiko Akasawa, it's just another story. Until her neice dies under mysterious circumstances. Reiko begins to investigate, and learns two other children from her school died the same night - seven days after they spent the night at a mysterious cabin. Reiko's investigation leads her to the tape, and after watching it she's convinced she only has a week to unravel the mystery. Enlisting the help of her ex-husband Ryuji, the two race to uncover the origins of the tape before time runs out.
'Ringu', is a cinematic giant in Japan. It's spawned a prequel, a sequel, and even a TV series. The american remake 'The Ring', directed by Gore Verbinski and starring Naomi Watts, grossed 130 million dollars in a market where the horror movie is a perennial underperformer. The remake is faithful to 'Ringu' in almost all respects. As a result, what follows is not just a review of 'Ringu' alone as a movie, but also a comparison of the two together. Bear in mind that I saw 'The Ring' before 'Ringu', and interpret the review accordingly.
In some ways, "Ringu' is a more subtle movie than it's american counterpart. There are less effects - for instance the faces of Sadako's victims are bared in a rictus of fear, but not the ghastly inhuman ones in the 'Ring'. This works towards creating a sense of fearful unease, rather than reaching for outright shocks. 'Ringu' doesn't explicitly explain everything about itself, and lets the viewers imagination do much of the work. However, in the original, steps are taken to more clearly explain Sadako's origins. Her parentage as well as her powers are drawn out more clearly, removing some of the mystery present in the remake. Ryuji is actually somewhat of a psychic himself, which does manage to explain why Akasawa's child is able to speak with Tomoko/Sadako. In general however, Ringu leaves many pieces of it's puzzle to the imagination, while providing the viewer with enough material to make their own conclusions frightening enough.
The feel of 'Ringu' is one of quiet despair, which permeates all events throughout the film. There's often a light drizzle, or all out downpour, in the washed out environments. Sometimes, the only sound in a scene is that of rain, and it makes for a beautifully melancholy atmosphere. The cinematography suits the feel of the movie perfectly, and together all these elements combine to create a disquieting ambience which weaves perfectly into the subject matter.
A striking difference between 'Ringu' and the 'Ring' is the character of Reiko Akasawa, played by Naomi Watts in the American version. In the remake, she's portrayed as a strong, determined woman, who's on equal footing with her ex-husband. In the original however, Reiko comes across as a weaker woman, who can't stop herself from falling apart as the movie progresses. Ryuji, her ex-husband, seems to always be firmly in control, at one point slapping his hysterical partner. This serves to make it a little more difficult to connect with Reiko as a character, and makes her ordeal less immediate than it might have been.
If you're a fan of 'The Ring', you're no doubt wondering whether seeing 'Ringu' is worth your time. In the broadest of spectrums, they are very similar movies. Although the differences may seem minute, they work to create two separate films, each with a different feel and style. If you liked 'The Ring', you owe it to yourself to see where it came from. If you haven't seen either movie, where you begin is up to you. If you like the slick and styled feel of hollywood movies, then of course you'd want to pick up 'The Ring'. If you want something a little more raw, a little less polished, and a more honest experience in general, then 'Ringu' is your movie.