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The granddaddy of J-horror gets a 20th Anniversary restoration

Image of Ring

Hideo Nakata/ Japan/ 1998/ 95 mins

On DVD & Blu-ray from Mon 18 Mar 2019

It’s been twenty years since Hideo Nakata’s seminal ghostly horror film, Ring (often erroneously referred to as, Ringu), was released in Japan. To commemorate this anniversary, Arrow Video are re-releasing the “granddaddy of J-Horror” with a brand new high definition restoration of the film.

Ring‘s story is now all but legendary in both simplicity and style. A series of deaths revolve around an urban legend about a mysterious video; one that apparently brings death to anyone who sees it, exactly seven days later.  Reiko (Nanako Matsushima), a young journalist, is drawn into investigating the story after her niece succumbs to the cursed tape. It’s not long before Reiko herself has seen the cursed tape and is embroiled in the supernatural horror; having only seven days to solve the mystery and break the curse to save herself, her son and her ex-husband.

It’s a surprisingly procedural film, charting the ever ticking down days with the grounded mundanity of old fashioned investigation in pre-internet Japan.  As the awkward couple scour newspapers and public records, and examine every second of the strange otherworldly video footage, to find the truth about the mysterious Sadako and the tragedies that have created the cursed tape. Despite a slightness to the character development, it’s still engaging to watch especially due to the good turns made by Matsushima and Hiroyuki Sanada as her ex-husband, Ryûji. The twenty years that have passed haven’t been entirely as kind to the rest of the film. There’s a definite hokeyness to some aspects of the story, particularly surrounding Ryûji’s latent psychic powers, that comes across as more than a little daft. Tellingly, this subplot was excised entirely in the later US remake.

It’s a testament to the quality of the film that despite a slew of sequels, prequels and spin-offs, as well as the largely disparate original book series by Kôji Suzuki, that it’s Ring that has endured. The defining image of Sadako and the abandoned well, is now thoroughly ingrained on the popular cultural consciousness. As such it seems churlish to pick faults with a film that is a bonafide classic, and more than stands up to the test of the score of years since it’s original release.

Arrow’s new pack more than warrants picking up, for fans of horror and the series alike. The new restoration looks fantastic, and the included featurettes on Nakata, the Ring series and the movie itself are both interesting and informative. There is also the added bonus of a limited edition collectors pack being simultaneously released, comprising Ring, Ring 2, Ring 0 and the less well know alternate sequel, Spiral; meaning that this is a perfect opportunity to get to know this landmark horror film, and the surrounding Ring mythos.

/ @The_reviewist

Graeme Strachan is a writer, editor, and journalist based in Edinburgh. He has been a critic and reviewer for over 15 years in areas including theatre, video games and restaurant critique; and likes to dabbles in film and television production. He lives in hope for the day where he finds a more profitable use for his Classical Studies degree than obscure questions in a pub quiz.


2 Responses to Ring

  1. Adam Fairhall says:

    The subplot regarding Ryuji’s psychic powers wouldn’t seem as hokey to Japanese audiences, considering how rife assumptions of psychic ability are in Japanese culture and everyday discourse. It’s not a ‘fault’ as you imply. The way Ryuji’s abilities fail to save him might be considered one of the film’s most horrifying aspects, and marks a difference between the kind of denouement favoured by east Asian horror and the redemptive resolutions favoured by Hollywood. In this sense the subplot’s excision from the American version is only ‘telling’ inasmuch as it tells us about differing cultural attitudes. I wonder if you ever considered whether your responses were hidebound by your Western context, and so an inappropriate basis for assessing the quality of a Japanese film?

  2. Regarding the prevalence of psychic abilities in Japanese culture, I can only speak from my experience, and observe that it’s not a facet I’ve ever seen widely in the Japanese cinema I have enjoyed.

    Even in Nakata’s own Dark Water, which was also written by Suzuki, there isn’t any mention of similar, which one might expect were that it quite such a standard facet.

    But seeing as I am a western critic, reviewing for a western publication, I’d say that my reaction (both from when I first saw the film in the late 90s, and revisiting this release) is a valid place from which assess the film. As most of the readers will likely be approaching the review, and the film, from a similar western cultural standpoint, I assume it will be useful to them.

    Furthermore, regardless of the status of Japanese cultural mores, it still plays as hokey to me, and I’ll call it out as such with honest intent.

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