March has a great deal to offer fans of Hideo Nakata’s iconic adaptation of Koji Suzuki’s novel Ring (Ringu) with Arrow’s fantastic new restoration bringing to special home releases and a limited cinema release starting from March 1st. I can’t think of anything better than watching this on the big screen and you can find out the showtimes for your area through ringfilm.co.uk
I was lucky enough to see the new restoration and the review follows.
A group of teenage friends are found dead, their bodies grotesquely contorted, their faces twisted in terror. Reiko (Nanako Matsushima, When Marnie Was There), a journalist and the aunt of one of the victims, sets out to investigate the shocking phenomenon, and in the process uncovers a creepy urban legend about a supposedly cursed videotape, the contents of which causes anyone who views it to die within a week – unless they can persuade someone else to watch it, and, in so doing, pass on the curse….
I don’t think it would overstate things to say that Ring dramatically altered the kinds of horror that were released during its first run and its influence extended far beyond its original Japanese origins. It is undoubtedly an excellently crafted take on the vengeful ghost story, and the strength of its format and striking visuals proved influential within the genre and has sustained the franchise (to varying degrees of success) to this day. It is almost too easy in light of some inferior imitations and borrowing of the format to forget the power and craftsmanship of Ring.
From the opening scene, Ring sets out to build tension and the pacing of the film is a big part of what makes it so successful. The first scene throws us into the urban legend and provides an excellent hook for moving forward in the way that the story of the videotape is travelling amongst teenagers. The shift to focusing on journalist Reiko (Nanako Matsushima) allows the film chance to only show Sadako occasionally and sustains the tension as a result.
Matsushima’s performance as Reiko should be regarded as one of the best performances in a horror film. Her steely, professional demeanour giving way to absolute primal fear never fails to provoke a reaction from me. The uneasy alliance between Reiko and her ex-husband Ryuji (Hiroyuki Sanada) in their investigation of the tape adds a great deal to the tension. There is a likeability to both characters, which makes their predicament all the more sad.
In revisiting the film, I had some misgivings, mainly due to the fact that I felt that a large part of the film revolves around a mysterious VHS tape – it is the videotape, including the ‘cursed video’ which has provided Ring with its long-lasting ‘meme’ quality. However, I was struck that the technology involved actually forms less of the film than I’d remembered, meaning that the film doesn’t feel dated or dependent on the technology at all. The real heavy-lifting in the film is the emotional drama and investigation. It helps, of course, that the video itself is full to the brim of unexplainable nightmare fuel. Even before we see Sadako herself, the faces of victims frozen and contorted in fear sets up quite the expectation.
The film delivers on its earlier tension in spades, resulting in one of the best and most frightening scenes in horror. This is made even more shocking by the way the film wrong foots the viewer, slowing the pace and emphasising the melodrama over horror before revealing its scariest moment. The clever combination of Rie Ino’o’s Kabuki movement and some technical trickery results in something simple, yet so uncanny as to make it unforgettable.
As with all of their releases, Arrow has lovingly restored the film and the remastered version looks wonderful. The fact that the restoration has been approved by the original director of photography on the film, Junichiro Hayashi, means that it feels very much in keeping with the way the film should be presented. The extras on the steelbook and the wider Ring collection set promise a wealth of treasures for enthusiasts.
The Ring Limited Edition Steelbook is available for pre-order (out on 18th March) here.
If you would prefer to take in more of the films in the franchise The Ring Collection blu-ray is available for pre-order (also available on 18th March) here.
Book tickets to see The Ring in cinemas now here.