I’m arriving late to this one, I know … after TWENTY years from its release, I saw Ringu (1998), the low-budget horror directed by Hideo Nakata. But is it really a horror movie? According to imdb, it is, and it’s also a mystery film. I would add that it also has some thriller elements due to the investigation carried out by the protagonists Reiko and Ryûji (Nanako Matsushima and Hiroyuki Sanada, respectively). Since this is not a recent movie, I can start from the plot.
It begins with two friends, Masami and Tomoko (played by the relatively famous Yūko Takeuchi) spending the evening together in the house of one of the two. Almost immediately, they start talking about an urban legend: some friends have seen a mysterious videotape, soon afterwards they received a phone call telling them that they would die after a week and… they all died after a week! But we quickly understand that one of the two is really scared, and then it is revealed that just a week before she was in a mountain lodge with some friends and they all saw that same VHS and received that same phone call! Needless to say, the other one only has the time to go to the bathroom and as soon as she comes out she can only face the lifeless body of her friends with her face deformed by terror.
A few days later, the journalist Reiko is investigating the death of her niece Tomoko and discovers that three of her friends also died during that same night in mysterious circumstances. She learns about the VHS and goes to the Izu province where Tomoko and her friends had rented the lodge. And what does she do as soon as she gets there? She immediately watches the videotape and receives the inevitable call! So she also gets scared and calls her ex-husband Ryûji for help. Unfortunately for him, he agrees to help her. And things only get worse when their very strange son Yoichi also watches the damned VHS!
Reiko and Ryûji continue their investigation and discover that the responsible for the deaths seems to be the ghost of Sadako, the daughter of a psychic called Shizuko who committed suicide many years before. The two also discover that Sadako herself was killed by a man called Ikuma and her body was thrown into a well. Hoping to calm his anger, the two find the well and dig out the skeletal mortal remains of Sadako. And they realize that Reiko survives the seven days unscathed: they defeated the curse!
But… The day after, the poor Ryûji is massacred by the spirit of Sadako who drags herself out of his TV. And then the film ends almost suddenly, with Reiko realizing that the only way to save yourself from the curse is to copy the VHS and show it to someone else! And in order to save the little Yoichi, she jumps into her car and embarks on a journey, it seems, to condemn his parents to death in order to save his kid…
What do I think of this movie? It kept me glued to the screen the whole f***ing time! I really enjoyed it! The story is interesting, even with its inaccuracies and gaps left unexplained (these phone calls sometimes arrive, sometimes not, and the plot advances thanks to revelations coming out almost of nowhere…), and the director creates a very special atmosphere, also aided by a disturbing soundtrack. The gore is extremely limited: there’s only one sequence with the “monster” slowly advancing towards one of the protagonists, and the violence is kept off screen. But a bit like in The Babadook (2014) and It follows (2014), that’s enough to scare the audience! In fact, It follows uses the main idea of Ringu with regards to the passing of the curse!
If you haven’t seen it already, I’m recommending watching Ringu. Its influence on horror is testified by its innumerable sequels and remakes (the one directed by Gore Verbinski in 2002 is particularly popular), and by the fact that its main idea, as well as some of its directorial choices, can be found in many horror movies that came out after its release. And it’s true that the “less is more” principle has always existed, see Jaws (1975), but it really works here. Ciao!