This October is the 15th anniversary of the horror classic The Ring, which itself is a remake of the Japanese horror classic Ringu, a film that turns 19 this year. Today, we will look at the American horror film and compare it to the Japanese film that inspired it. The Ring, directed by Gore Verbinski, stars Naomi Watts and Martin Henderson, and tells the story of a reporter investigating a mysterious videotape that seems to kill anyone one week after they view it.
Ringu is directed by Hideo Nakata and stars Nanako Matsushima and Miki Nakatani. Both films are based on the amazing horror novel, Ring, by Koji Suzuki, who is considered the Stephen King of Japan. I cannot recommend this book enough.
In The Ring, Naomi Watts plays Rachel, a reporter investigating the mysterious death of her niece. She died, it seemed, after viewing a strange videotape. After tracking down and viewing the tape, she soon discovers that she has been cursed by a little girl named Samara to die in seven days. When her ex-husband and precocious son view the tape, she begins an even more desperate race against time to discover the origin of the VHS and find a way to end the curse for good.
The American version of The Ring is very faithful to Ringu, with a few minor differences. The origin of Samara (Sadako in Ringu) is very different, and so is the reason for the curse. Samara was the mysterious daughter of horse breeders on an island who had psychic powers. In Ringu, Sadako was the daughter of a very famous psychic. There was an accident during a performance and several reporters were killed. Both girls would come to be in the wells under different circumstances.
Both films are visually very similar; simple, stark, and ominous. A particular stand out scene in The Ring is on a ferry where a horse rampages wildly through parked cars. The pacing of the scene is frantic and the look is dark and foreboding. These two films are proof that horror films can be scary even when they are short on blood.
Both Samara and Sadako are visually portrayed in a very eerie fashion. In the American version, Samara is given a greater backstory and therefore a more human side. She becomes a very tragic figure: a gifted, haunted child who craves her mother’s attention to the point of madness. She is a child who is unable to control her gifts. Sadako’s story has a tragic side as well, but we learn fewer details. They look very similar, and both induce terror in the viewer.
As a remake goes, The Ring really shines. The strength of the film is that it carefully underplays the scares, relying on the “less is more” strategy that made the original film so successful. In both films, the tape itself is acts as a virus, wanting to spread itself through replication. This is easy due to society’s reliance on mass communication such as television. There is a haunting scene in The Ring where Naomi Watts stands on her balcony and looks into her neighbor’s windows. Every apartment has a television on in it. Once the virus is loose, there is no way to stop it from spreading — and that’s just the way Samara (and Sadako) want it.