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Director: Hideo Nakata
review by Steven Hampton
An astonishingly creepy Japanese mystery horror movie, Ring (aka: Ringu), has been favourably compared to independent American hit, The Blair Witch Project yet, in all honesty, this association is wholly unfair because the quietly enigmatic Ring is far superior to that scandalously over-hyped pseudo-documentary piece. Make no mistake, people, Ring is without doubt the most unsettling and scary, genre-literate chiller for several years, and boasts a superb score by Kenji Kawai.
Newswoman Reiko (Nanako Matsushima) investigates reports that some kids who watched a 'weird video' died just a week later, in suspicious circumstances. There's no evidence of murder but, from the looks on their dead faces, you would feel certain they were frightened to death. When Reiko gets hold of the unmarked tape and watches it alone, the telephone rings - and so begins a race against time to uncover the identity of the ghostly figure that appears on the TV screen. Where did the strange video come from? How do such bizarre rumours get started? Can a curse from beyond the grave really kill you?
If for no other reason, Ring deserves to be seen so everyone can appreciate the cheeky simplicity of its built-in ad campaign. But, even if you are only vaguely interested in cult film sensationalism, you should track this one down for the impressive and accomplished handling of supernatural terror movie themes. The atmosphere is efficiently built up through a series of fairly ordinary domestic scenes, adding much to the film's verisimilitude; while the unnerving psychic flashbacks are enough to make this reviewer regret watching it with the lights off. I shall say nothing more about the plot, as it's best to leave the witty secret of this eerie drama for the individual viewer to discover.
DVD extras: anamorphic transfer, striking animated menus, scene selection in 12 chapters (with film clip panels), exclusive UK trailer, preview of Ring 2, plus a trailer for Mike Takashi's intriguing Audition. There are welcome filmographies of the stars, director, and composer; gallery of haunting stills, screen text of Mark Kermode's perceptive review (adapted from Sight and Sound magazine), and some quotes lifted from the tabloid press.
Finally, after accepting full responsibility for your actions via the on-screen disclaimer, you can watch the disquietingly grainy footage of Sadako's Video in isolation.
previously published online, VideoVista #25
Ring 2 (1999)
Director: Hideo Nakata
review by Ian Shutter
Ring 2 (aka: Ringu 2) is a fine sequel to the phenomenally successful Japanese horror thriller. It covers a breadth of genre themes centred on a deadly techno-pagan virus that is transmitted by videotape, giving rise to psychic visions and demonstrations of mind over matter. There are creepy revelations about a witch who lived in a well for 30 years, a mental hospital patient too scared to watch TV, a university doctor investigating spirit photography, and other men in white coats faced with the inexplicable like a young boy possessed by an evil force.
Maintaining a close air of the uncanny throughout by means of various weird events - presented with great imagination on a shoestring budget - Ring 2 is an alarmingly good and genuinely scary movie. Like all the best chillers, it reminds us just how close to the surface our lingering superstitions are in this cynical age of scepticism and scientific primacy. If you enjoyed oddball American movies like The Sender, this could be to your taste - despite the need for subtitles.
Although this film has been rated (12) by BBFC, this release carries a higher (15) certificate due to content of trailers included here. DVD extras: anamorphic widescreen transfer, five trailers for the Ring cycle of three movies (plus trailers for four other eastern movies on this label), film notes about this sequel by Tony Rayns, gallery of Ring merchandise, scene finder in 12 chapters, smart animated menus.
previously published online, VideoVista #29
Ring 0 (2000)
Director: Norio Tsuruta
review by Christopher Geary
Ring O: Birthday is the prequel to Japanese horror movies, Ring, and Ring 2 (both 1999), which features a highly atmospheric mix of psychic chills, unsolved murder, sinister urban legend, and inverted sci-fi clichés.
An inexplicable death scene during rehearsals for a stage-play, which actually takes a strange and mysterious death as its central plot device, is only the starting point for the carefully elaborate origin story of Sadako, a haunted girl who turns into the terrifying witch of the other Ring films.
This is definitely one of those instances where the fewer details you know about the plot, the more effective its uncanny mood and scary moments are. That said, I'm not giving away any vital secrets by telling you there's plenty of drama troupe intrigues, some fantastical miracle cures, ESP experiments that unleash a deadly force, and a twisted yet irresistible logic that makes even the most bizarre events seem curiously plausible.
Produced on an obviously meagre budget, this subtitled but accessible foreign language shocker gets under your skin to inject edge-of-the-seat genre thrills. So if you want a blitz of really scary movies, forget Scream, get this complete trilogy.
previously published online, VideoVista #36
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