REVIEW: DVD Release: Ring

Film: Ring
Release date: 19th March 2001
Certificate: 15
Running time: 96 mins
Director: Hideo Nakata
Starring: Nanako Matsushima, Miki Nakatani, Yûko Takeuchi, Hitomi Satô, Yôichi Numata
Genre: Horror/Mystery
Studio: Tartan
Format: DVD
Country: Japan

Ring: the title, like the film itself, is beautifully simplistic. This Japanese cult horror has become one of the highest grossing franchises of all time, spawning a sequel, a prequel, two remakes and a TV series. The story centres around a mysterious video tape that when watched means the demise of its unlucky viewer after seven days. This may sound slightly ridiculous as agrounding for a good horror film, however, in execution, Hideo Nakata has created a true horror classic.

Reiko Asakura (Nanako Matsushima) is a journalist investigating a circulating rumour on a cursed videotape, but it is only after the death of her niece that she begins to believe there could be some truth to the urban legend. Her investigation leads her to a cabin where she discovers and watches the tape.

Frightened at what may happen to her, Reiko enlists the help of her ex-husband Ryuki (Hiroyuki Sanada), who is cynical about the whole notion, and watches the tape out of curiosity. Add to this their son, Yoichi, who watches the tape by accident, and the clock is very much ticking on the entire family.

What follows is a race against time as the former married couple investigate the sources and people in the tape in order to see if they can lift their curse before their time is up. What they don’t realise is that their journey will lead them to the paranormal and murdered girl who is set on revenge…

From the very beginning, this movie is an exercise in beautiful simplicity. The tension is palpable from the start, and builds as the protagonists near their demise. Director Hideo Nakata is subtle and methodical with his work, and this is evident in Ring. There are plenty of voyeuristic shots, which unnerve. The characters, having watched the tape have someone or something hovering over them, waiting. It is hard not to feel a chill. The ambiguity leads us to wonder what it could be, and as is the case with most classic horror films, being suggestive and allowing the audience to utilise their imaginations is the best tool at the director’s disposal.

The same can be said of the acting. Nanako Matsushima gives a very measured performance. The subtleties of facial expression and body language help accentuate the quiet moments that only succeed in increasing the tension and drama.

When the horror moments do occur, and they are sporadic, they are delivered purposefully and with force. The evil paranormal child Sadako (Rie Ino’o) moves in a disjointed and painful manner. Her movement adds to her already warped back-story, and is simply terrifying in the movie’s most enduring scene: her awkward and ominous clamber from the TV screen and into Ryuki’s home. It is a truly classic horror moment.

Whilst the story overall is methodical and well-paced, there are moments that could have been used to create more drama and action. After their investigation leads them to a volcanic island, the former married couple, Reiko and Ryuki, need to get back to the mainland to stop the curse. There is a typhoon and no-one will take them on their boats as it is too dangerous, until Sadako’s father, Professor Ikuma (Daisuke Ban) turns up. Their journey is straightforward and the investigation continues. While it is important that the film maintains its tension, it will be clear to action addicts that there are a few missed opportunities for visual and physical drama, and while the film doesn’t necessarily suffer because of them, people who are expecting more action are going to be left disappointed.

The sound, or lack of it, is utilised very well to accentuate tense moments so that when the score is used it has maximum impact. The simplicity of a telephone ring is used as Sadako makes her disjointed stumble towards the screen to signify impending and inevitable doom.

Even at the very end of the movie the director is still being suggestive rather than implicit. Ambiguity allows the audience to make up their own minds, and this uncertainty is perhaps the most unnerving.

Hideo Nakata’s film Ring is a triumph of horror cinema on a shoestring budget. It is a master class in how subtlety can be utilised in such a way that makes it extremely powerful. It is clear that every aspect of the film has been well constructed and methodically thought out. The horror aspects may be few and far between but the thriller aspect builds the tension and the story development so that the audience is in the palm of his hand for when the killer blow is dealt. MMI

No comments:

Post a Comment