Ring (リング, Ringu) is a 1998 Japanese horror film directed by Hideo Nakata, based on the 1991 novel by Kôji Suzuki. The film stars Nanako Matsushima, Hiroyuki Sanada and Rikiya Ōtaka, and follows a reporter who is racing to investigate the mystery behind a cursed videotape that kills the viewer seven days after watching it.
Japanese theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Hideo Nakata|
|Screenplay by||Hiroshi Takahashi|
by Koji Suzuki
|Music by||Kenji Kawai|
|Edited by||Nobuyuki Takahashi|
Ringu/Rasen Production Committee
|Box office||$19.4 million (est.)|
Production took approximately nine months. Ring and its sequel Rasen were released in Japan at the same time. After its release, Ring was a huge box office success in Japan and was acclaimed by critics. It inspired numerous follow-ups in the Ring franchise, popularized J-horror internationally, and triggered a trend of Western remakes, starting with the 2002 American film The Ring.
Two high schoolers, Masami and Tomoko, talk about a videotape that was allegedly recorded in Izu and bears a curse that kills the viewer in one week. Tomoko reveals that a week ago, she and three of her friends watched a strange tape and received a phone call afterward. The two hear the phone ring, but it turns out to only be Tomoko's mother, much to their amusement. As soon as Masami goes back upstairs, Tomoko witnesses her TV turn on by itself, and soon thereafter is killed by an unseen force.
Meanwhile, the cursed video story is being investigated by Tomoko's maternal aunt, newspaper reporter Reiko Asakawa. When Reiko and her young son Yoichi attend Tomoko's funeral, she discovers that three of Tomoko's friends all died the same night she did, and their bodies were found with their faces twisted in fear. In Tomoko's room the next day, Reiko finds a receipt from a photo development shop. She picks up the unclaimed photos, which show the four friends staying in a rental cabin in Izu. In one photo, their faces are strangely distorted.
Reiko goes to the cabin in Izu to investigate and notices an unlabeled tape on the shelf in the rental office. She watches it for herself, and finds that the tape shows a series of seemingly unrelated disturbing images, accompanied by a metallic screeching, with the image of an open well being the tape's final scene. At the end, she sees a mysterious reflection in the TV and receives a phone call, but only screeching sounds can be heard. Taking the threat of death seriously, she leaves with the tape and enlists her ex-husband, college professor Ryūji Takayama, to investigate its origin. Reiko asks Ryuji to take her picture, and they discover that photos of her face now come out distorted like those of Tomoko and her friends. Ryūji watches the tape and tells her to make him a copy. While studying the tape the next day, the two find a hidden message within it of a voice speaking the words "frolic in brine, goblins be thine". Ryuji eventually finds that the message is in a dialect from Izu Ōshima Island. Reiko later catches Yoichi watching the tape, claiming the ghost of Tomoko told him to.
Reiko and Ryūji sail for Ōshima and discover the history of Shizuko Yamamura, a local woman known for her psychic powers. They stay at an inn run by Takashi, Shizuko's brother. Ryūji reveals to Takashi that he knows the old man exposed Shizuko to the media, hoping to make money off her. The media attention attracted ESP researcher Dr. Heihachiro Ikuma, who, besides conducting studies on her, had an affair with Shizuko and fathered a child with her. At a demonstration of Shizuko's psychic abilities held by Ikuma, a journalist who spitefully denounced her as a fraud, inciting his other colleagues to do the same, was psychokinetically killed by Shizuko's daughter, Sadako. Shortly thereafter, a series of slanderous reports drive Shizuko to commit suicide. Dr. Ikuma was fired by his university and disappeared with Sadako. Ryūji, who has psychic powers himself, sees these events through ESP, as does Reiko; when, in the vision, Sadako runs up to her and grabs hold of her wrist, she collapses, and Ryūji notices a dark bruise shaped like a hand on Reiko's wrist.
Reiko and Ryūji deduce that Sadako psionically created the cursed tape to express her fury against the world. The two return to Izu and discover a well underneath the holiday cabin. Through another vision, they discover that Dr. Ikuma bludgeoned Sadako and pushed her body into the well, where she died struggling to get out. They try to find Sadako's corpse in an attempt to appease her spirit. Minutes before her time runs out, Reiko discovers Sadako's corpse at the bottom of the well. The bruise disappears from her wrist, and she and Ryūji return home, relieved that the curse is seemingly broken.
The next day however, Ryūji is working at home when he suddenly hears metallic screeching. He turns around to see that his TV has switched on by itself and is showing the image of the well from the tape's ending. The vengeful ghost of Sadako crawls from the well, out of Ryūji's TV set, and into his apartment, frightening him so badly that the shock kills him. Reiko, who had tried to call Ryūji, hears his last minutes over the phone and quickly realizes that only she is free from the curse. Desperate to save Yoichi, she realizes that copying the tape and showing it to someone else was what saved her. She drives to her father's house with the tapes and her VCR, telling her father in a phone call that she has a favor to ask him.
- 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.
- Daisuke Ban as Dr. Heihachiro Ikuma, Sadako's father who threw her down a well.
- Rie Inō as Sadako Yamamura, a girl with psychic powers who was thrown down a well where she died; 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.
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 reads the replication of the video as technology spreading, virus-like, throughout Japan.
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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 US$1.2 million, 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.
In Japan, the film earned a distribution income (rentals) of ¥1 billion in 1998, making it one of the top ten highest-grossing Japanese films of the year. The film grossed a total Japanese box office revenue of ¥1.7 billion (US$13 million).
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. In Taiwan, where it released in 1999, the film grossed NT$50.83 million (US$1.619 million).
In France, the film sold 94,257 tickets, equivalent to an estimated gross revenue of approximately €506,160 (US$452,737). In South Korea, 56,983 tickets were sold in the capital city of Seoul, equivalent to an estimated gross revenue of approximately ₩341,970,000 ($287,656). The film also grossed $59,001 in Chile and the United Kingdom, adding up to an estimated worldwide gross revenue of approximately $19,448,394.
To coincide with its 20th anniversary, Arrow Films issued a Blu-ray version of Ring on March 18, 2019 in the UK. Additionally, a Blu-ray box set featuring Ring, the sequels Rasen and Ring 2, and prequel Ring 0, was also released. The transfer features a 4K resolution restoration that was scanned from the film's original camera negative. The picture grading and restoration, which took place at Imagica Labs in Tokyo, was supervised and approved by Ring cinematographer Jun'ichirō Hayashi. Both Arrow's Blu-Ray restoration and the Blu-ray box set were later released in the United States on October 29, 2019.
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The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film an approval rating of 97% based on 38 reviews, with a weighted average of 7.5 out of 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 No. 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, a.k.a. Vortex, based on the Junji Itō horror manga of the same name).
Influence on Western cinemaEdit
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 sub-genre, which relied on on-screen violence, shock tactics, and gore. Ring, whose release in Japan roughly coincided with The Blair Witch Project in the United States, helped to revitalise 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 South Korea (A Tale of Two Sisters) and Hong Kong (The Eye).
All of these films were later remade in the US. Released in 2002, The Ring reached number 1 at the box office and grossed slightly more in Japan than the original. The original Ring grossed ¥1.7 billion in 1998, while The Ring remake grossed ¥1.75 billion in 2002.
Sequels and remakeEdit
The original sequel was Rasen, however, due to poor reception, a new sequel, Ring 2, was released in 1999 which continued the storyline of this film. Then, it was followed by a 2000 prequel, Ring 0: Birthday. A television series, Ring: The Final Chapter, was made, with a similar storyline but many changes in characters and their backstories. An American remake, The Ring, was made in 2002 .
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