The Ring (Ringu) – Movie Review

Suffice to say that this is the point in the marathon where we get to certain films that leave me unsettled. Not just in the sense of being left fearful of creepy imagery or graphic content. I mean the type of fear that leaves you feeling off and utterly terrified of what might be around the corner.

With the western horror medium being dominated by slashers throughout the 1980s and 1990s, it’s not rare to have seen most of those films rely on shock tactics, gore, and graphic violence to leave audiences in fear of what they just saw. The Ring, in comparison, is much more restrained. There isn’t anything in terms of on-screen violence. Still, it’s the implications presented throughout the narrative combined with consistently unnerving visuals that lingers just long enough for it to settle in the subconscious. All of this makes for something special.

Indeed, it’s pretty difficult for anyone dabbling in J-horror to avoid seeing a mention about The Ring as it is essentially the J-horror film. There would, of course, be the various sequels and remakes that would follow, but few managed to rival the sheer haunting impact of the original.

The film’s central premise revolving around the main character watching a cursed videotape that will kill the viewer in seven days. Part of the joy when watching The Ring is seeing how director Hideo Nakata manages to squeeze so much tension through his precise handling of the material combine with some tight editing that always keeps the viewer on edge.

As unconventional as it is for western mainstream audiences, this minimalist approach to the genre has always held mass appeal for me. Sure, people do die, and there might be a jump scare once in a while, but neither are done to the point where it detracts from The Ring’s genuinely creepy atmosphere and wonderful sense of dread.

In nature, with the film’s restrained approach to horror, much of the character drama is handled in this fashion. There are quite a few details about the main protagonist shown in the film that may not be so obvious at first. Still, it’s the fact that these details are shown rather than told that adds to a sincere level of tragedy that runs underneath the supernatural elements. Be it of the tragedy of losing a loved one, or the eventual reality that your own life is shortly coming to its own horrifying inevitable conclusion.

If I have any real gripe with the storytelling, it will relate to how the film uses exposition. It’s certainly needed for the film to function first and thankfully never undercuts the story’s more uncertain aspects. I just wished it played more into the mystery angle set up early but seems to fade into the background so that the terrifying conflict can take more of the center stage. Though when that element is so well-realized, it’s hard to be too upset about that in the long run.

Grade: A


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