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RINGU

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Nanako Matsushima, Miki Nakatani
Director:  Hideo Nakata
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio:  Dreamworks
Features:  Bonus Trailers
Length:  96 Minutes
Release Date:  March 4, 2003

Film **1/2

This is going to be a very different kind of review for us at DMC…my primary purpose in writing it is to compare the original to the remake.  Since a lot of people have discovered The Ring, many have expressed curiosity about the original Japanese film it was based on, Ringu.  Storywise, they are extremely similar, so if you’re wondering about the plot of Ringu, you can check out our review of The Ring.  As they say in the business, only the names have changed.

For those of you who haven’t seen either The Ring or Ringu, skip the remainder of this review, because there’s no way to avoid spoilers when comparing and contrasting.  This piece is primarily for those who HAVE seen The Ring and want to know if it’s worth seeking out Ringu.

For starters, a major difference is the absence of “the ring” in Ringu!  For me, one of the best parts of The Ring was the revelation of what it finally was.  It doesn’t happen in the Japanese version.

As mentioned, the two films cover the same story with mostly only cosmetic differences.  One interesting aspect of the Japanese version is that the ex-husband is more the go-getter and the brains behind the investigative outfit.  That may be owing more to Japanese culture…it’s probably more “American” to have a strong, formidable female lead.  As for the kid, he’s not nearly as important in the original version, except that he, too, watches the dread video.  Gone is the shocking final punch of The Ring:  “You didn’t help her out, did you?”

Speaking of the video, there are plenty of similarities there, too.  Gore Verbinski re-created a lot of the original footage for The Ring, but added more to it.  The flaming tree, the barn loft with the ladder, and the drowning horses were his additions to the story (Ringu has a similar shot of the horse’s eye, but no back story for it).  Overall, Verbinski’s imagery was just far creepier.

One aspect Ringu has in its favor is a more cohesive back story for the girl.  This marks the only major narrative difference between the two films.  In Ringu, she was the daughter of a psychic, but had far greater mental powers including the ability to kill with her mind (like a scanner, I suppose).  A vague suggestion that her father wasn’t human is the only other clue to her strange power.  There are no psychiatric sessions here. 

Rick Baker’s makeup in The Ring is a definite plus.  The white pancake powder dusting used in Ringu just doesn’t shock the same way.  It was especially a terrific exclamation point to the opening sequence of The Ring.  Ringu is similar, but missing a lot of the impact.  Comparing just these sequences offers plenty of revelation:  Verbinski proves himself the better director by his ability to toy with us; we expect it, we expect it, we expect it, and then we get it when we’re not so sure it’s coming.

Cohesively, Ringu may gel a little better, but it’s not as scary, nor will it stay with you as long.

Video ***

This is a solid anamorphic offering from Dreamworks, but again, comparison is merited.  The Ring had a very distinctive look with its rainy day feel and cool color schemes.  Ringu misses that.  As such, it still works, but the cinematography doesn’t support the narrative as much.  Colors are well rendered, with images that are medium to strong in sharpness, but no bleeding or compression evident.

Audio **1/2

The 5.1 remix is a commendable effort, but Ringu just doesn’t have the same command of atmospheric sound as its American counterpart.  The rear stage opens from time to time, but it sometimes seems more forced than natural.  Dialogue seems well rendered (though that’s not so important unless you speak Japanese), and the overall mix is serviceable, but not as intense or expressive.

Features *

The disc contains a few trailers, including The Ring, Catch Me if You Can and 8 Mile.

Summary:

If you’ve seen The Ring, I don’t necessarily think it’s worth a lot of effort to track down Ringu.  It’s a well made horror film in its own right, and provided solid inspiration for the American remake, but The Ring is simply the scarier and more well-crafted of the two.  After seeing it, Ringu comes across more as an interesting curiosity piece than anything else.