One film, two versions: Ringu

When I watch a scary film, I like it to actually scare me. Seeing a horror film or supposedly scary thriller, and not being horrified or scared is ultimately very disappointing. In 1998, I heard about a new Japanese horror film that was receiving rave reviews, so went to see it. I confess that I was expecting to see the same old predictable shocks, and well-telegraphed ‘scare’ moments.
I was wrong.

‘Ringu’ really scared me. It was creepy, effective, and just on the right side of making me almost cover my eyes. Bear in mind that I was a 46 year-old seasoned film-goer at the time, and that gives some idea just how good it is. The plot is simple, yet very effective. A VHS tape bears a curse. watch it, and you will be killed by something terrible, within seven days. If this sounds to you like a typical ‘teen horror’ film, I can understand why. But you would be wrong. The atmosphere is all in this film, with its sense of dread and impending doom all-pervasive. Not knowing any of the actors worked so well, as I was able to believe in all the characters. This is what a scary film should be. Scary.

In 2002, the film was remade in the USA as ‘The Ring’. It starred Naomi Watts, and British actor Brian Cox. It’s a straight remake, with few changes except the location. For those who had never seen (nor heard of) the Japanese original, it was well-received, and liked as a horror film. I reluctantly decided to watch it, if only to confirm my worst fears. They were confirmed of course. Familiar actors, and a reasonably familiar American setting, (Seattle) all contrived to lessen the scares, and make it feel a little too cosy. If you like to be scared occasionally, stick with the original.

It’s worth mentioning that this was one in a series of rather pointless remakes of some very good Japanese horror films. Other titles covered by the American film industry include ‘The Grudge’, ‘Dark Water’, ‘The Eye’, and ‘One Missed Call’. Seek out the films in their original format. You will be glad you did.