ARROW IN THE HEAD REVIEWS

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Ringu (1998)
Written by: The Arrow
Director: Hideo Nakata

Starring:
Matsushima Nanako/Reiko
Hiroyuki Sanada/Ryuji
PLOT-CRUNCH
A journalist (Nanako) investigates an urban legend that’s linked to a mysterious death. She’s told that the victim in question watched a weird videotape and then got a phone call telling her that she would die in 7 days. Our feisty journalist eventually finds the tape, slaps it in her VCR and…
THE LOWDOWN
This little Japanese ditty was a smash in Japan. It spawned two sequels and an American remake (urgh) might be in the works. Not yet released legally in the States, this horror buff had to shell out mucho bucks for an illegal copy. Was it worth the green? Absolutely! "Ring" is an old fashioned ghost story that grabbed me from the get-go with its novel premise and sealed the deal with its waaaay creepy conclusion. The opening of the film might be reminiscent of “Scream” but the rest of the movie is on a twisted path of its own.

What made "Ring" work for me was its ability to inject a total sense of dread throughout the picture. Even when nothing supernatural was happening, you felt like the energy level of the world in the film was off. That odd vibe succeeded in making me feel uneasy for an hour and a half...and that was great! I also appreciated Ring’s surprising restraint. The film works on a very subtle and down to earth level that made the supernatural events within, even more shocking. The movie has no “stalk” sequences and no gruesome murders, instead, it uses little things like blurred photographs or corpses with facial expressions that are frozen in fear to get to you. Add to that the videotape itself which is spooky on its own (fucked up!!!!) and the spine-chilling apparition of Sadako (my blood froze when she steeped fully on the screen for the first time) and you get a film that might get under your skin. It did mine…brrr…

Where "Ring" lost some points with me was with its inclusion of the all-knowing Ryuji (Sanada). I mean, this dude knows everything…no, you don’t understand…I mean EVERYTHING! His vast knowledge of all the people involved in the back-story of the tape (which itself borders on soap opera) bothered me and when his psychic abilities were revealed (which in turn somehow converted Reiko into a psychic too…what?), it bothered me even more. What’s the point of slapping a mystery my way if one of the lead characters is going to solve it in a nano-second? Ryuji’s Jedi-like knowledge distanced me from him and also ruined many good enigmas for me. I would’ve liked to have figured things out on my own or for the questions to have remained unanswered for more time. I didn’t need him coming in and solving every puzzle every step of the way.

Even though Ryuji slightly tarnished the middle section of the flick for me, the movie pulled me back in with its gripping last 20 minutes and when all was said and done...I felt really spooked. "Ring" is a low-key, well-directed, eerie film and this Arrow is very happy to have seen it. Wait…the phone is ringing…should I answer…
GORE
Apart from a head that splits open to reveal the skeleton underneath the skin…nothing. The film is not about gore...it’s about atmosphere. All of the murders are off-screen.
ACTING
t’s hard for me to judge the acting since the film is in Japanese and I was busy reading subtitles. I will say that Matsushima Nanako (Reiko) looks the part and seems to communicate all emotions well. And even though I didn’t like Hiroyuki Sanada (Ryuji) character, I can’t deny that he did a good job in playing him. The guy is too kool for school in this film and has a way intense stare. NOTE: Sadako the female spirit is beyond spine-chilling…
T & A
Not a hint of that stuff.
DIRECTING
Nakata shoots most of the film in a very straight- forward way, which in turn makes the ghostly events hit even harder. He does offer some stylish shots here and there (lots of overhead shots), likes to freeze frame when a murder happens (in a blue haze no less) and does amazing things with sounds. Nakata’s restraint approach served the story very well. Good show young man!
SOUNDTRACK
For a while, the score is absent in this film, but the screeching sounds that are used really hit home. Kenji Kawai’s score (who also scored "Ghost In The Shell") is used at all the right moments and amplifies the sense of dread that fills the film.
BOTTOM LINE
"Ring" made me feel really uncomfortable (in a good way) and although Ryuji kept giving away all of the film’s “aces”, I still got consumed by its the storyline and to be honest, slept with one eye open afterwards. If you’re in the mood for something that takes a polar opposite direction of what Americans have mostly been delivering these days…then "Ring" is for you. Now I have to hunt down the sequels…damn…
BULL'S EYE
The budget for "Ringu" was $1.5 million.

"Ringu" is based on the best selling novel "Ring" by Koji Susuki.
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