How do you even begin to review Ring? I mean, we’ve all seen it and it’s great. Very scary. Don’t watch the video. Don’t answer the phone. Stay away from wells. You know, you get the gist. And if you haven’t seen it by now, A) What well have you been living in? and B) I haven’t really spoiled it for you, don’t worry.
But in all seriousness, Ring is not a film any longer subject to one individual’s personal review, not when it’s become one of the single most import and influential horror / ghost stories of the last twenty years.
If you need a recap, here it is – a gang of teenagers all die under mysterious circumstances, faces melted into a grimace of horror, exactly one week to the minute after watching a video they find in a cabin on a volcanic island. Between the lines of grainy static and set to the soundtrack of a sinister buzzing insect, the video shows various abstract images of a creepy woman combing her hair, the sea, a man with a bag on his head pointing, and of course, the now infamous well. A news reporter goes digging, eventually watching the creepy black and white film herself, starting the clock ticking on her one week.
I haven’t watched Ring for a long time. You think, you don’t need to watch it often. The no-frills nature of the storyline, along with the haunting image of Sadako twitching and clambering her way out of her watery prison to stare you down with her one bulging eye means that the impression is made and kept, a long time after you first see it. I went to watch this film at the cinema once, and the person who came with me said that every time they heard the indicative angry bee/badly tuned violin that signalled the entrance of our drowned ghost, he just stared at the bottom right hand corner of the cinema rather than look at it, such was the magnitude of the suspense and impending doom.
However, if you want to be, as I have very happily been, reminded of the massive cultural impact of this film on a large percentage of more recent horror, I really do implore you t see the anniversary restoration as soon you can. As Blair Witch was to the three million found-footage horror movies that came after it, and every film set on a camping trip since, so was Ring to countless static-drenched haunted television style horror films of the early 2000’s. Maybe you’re sitting there scratching your head, but if you haven’t seen a film in the last twenty years where a ghost child previously murdered and plastered into the walls of someone’s basement/attic controls the TV/stereo until their mystery has been solved, then I’ll take my shoes off and eat them.
Like home video, like bullet time, Ring has reached so far, it’s impossible not to see shades of it in an astronomical amount of film. Not only was it remade, but so were its sequels, its writers other works (Dark Water, The Grudge) and it was pretty much singlehandedly responsible for the surge of Western interest in Asian horror cinema during the last two decades.
I can’t comment on the quality of acting (I suppose the language barrier could be the reason Nanako Matsushima reminds puts me in mind of a Japanese version of The Young and The Restless…), but I can comment on the quality of the greasy, inching dread, the urge to close one eye and put at least three fingers of your hand over the other every time there’s more than five seconds of silence in a scene, and not least of all the raw and pure relief that in 2019 TV static and VHS tapes are thankfully a thing I don’t need to worry about anymore. Ring is a movie that launched a thousand wells, and it’s imperative that you look directly at the screen when you watch it… Sophie Francois