Horror Bingo 2022: Ring

I saw The Ring (the American remake) back when I was in high school, but I never got around to watching the original Japanese film. I’d always had some interest, though, and when I recently found out that Hiroyuki Sanada was in it, I decided to add Ring to the Horror Bingo pool.

It’s more of a slow burn mystery than I (vaguely) remember the American remake being, but I had a decent time watching it.

Year: 1998
Director: Nakata Hideo
First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch
Streaming Service: Shudder
Spoilers: Yes, for this film and for its American remake
Grade: Vanilla

I’ve never read Ring (the novel), and I haven’t seen The Ring (2002) since I first watched it twenty years ago, so I honestly didn’t remember very much about the story before checking out this film. One thing I couldn’t forget, of course, was the shot of Samara climbing out of the TV to kill Martin Henderson because holy shit; that was like The Horror Moment of 2002. Unfortunately, I do feel like Ring probably plays best when you don’t know that epic moment is coming. The movie does have some small moments of terror throughout—I really like the abrupt cut to Tomoko’s body in the closet, for instance—but for the most part, Ring is a fairly quiet supernatural mystery that’s very slowly building to this incredibly iconic conclusion; knowing said conclusion ahead of time does means that the ending can’t quite pack the same punch.

Which isn’t to say there weren’t any surprises! I’m reasonably certain, for instance, that Martin Henderson isn’t a psychic in The Ring—which is why I was both surprised and delighted when Ryuji (Sanada) turned out to be one here. I am a huge nerd for psychic detective stories, like, a mystery is good. A mystery where people are solving the case through visions, dreams, omens, Tarot readings, talking with ghosts, or any other cool psychic shit? Absolutely my jam. I was 100% into this.

I also seem to recall Naomi Watt’s kid having a bigger role in the American remake; specifically, I remember him being creepier, as was very much the trend in the early 2000’s. This poor child, meanwhile, is only a tiny bit of a psychic weirdo; mostly, Yuichi is just a latchkey kid—not entirely surprising, considering he’s being raised by a single mother, but Reiko (Matsushima Nanako) seems almost hilariously nonchalant about leaving him on his own. Meanwhile, Yuichi has absolutely no relationship with Ryuji, and I’m curious if that’s because Ryuji didn’t want to be a parent, or if Reiko didn’t want him around their kid. Normally, I’d assume the former, but Ryuji does have one particularly bitter line that made me wonder. It’s interesting. I’m not sure we need to know more about their past relationship, but I will admit I kind of wanted to.

I find Reiko to be a bit frustrating—I feel like she falls into the role of Useless, Frightened Woman the second her ex-husband comes into the picture—but I will say that she’s delightfully all “needs must” about saving her kid, like, I was definitely not expecting Reiko to tell her own father to watch the cursed video. I mean. Presumably, she’ll tell her dad how to save himself, too, but goddamn. Family holidays are going to be awkward from now on, that’s all I’m saying.

Ultimately, I don’t know if I have a lot to say about Ring—certainly nothing that other more well-informed people haven’t already analyzed and discussed. People often bring up technology anxiety in J-Horror, for instance, but I definitely haven’t seen enough of these movies (Pulse, One Missed Call, etc.) to even pretend at my own thesis here. Ring is unlikely to ever become a favorite of mine, and I do feel like I would have enjoyed it more if I’d seen it back in 1998, but the concept is awesome, the ending is classic for a reason, I really enjoyed watching Hiroyuki Sanada in a Japanese film (I do hope to watch more!), and it was just pretty neat to check out.

Last Up: Nope

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