Ringu, or the majority of Westerners’ first Japanese horror movie, is a 1998 J-horror movie that’s based on the novel of the same name by Koji Suzuki (actually, it’s book one of a trilogy.) Of course, this movie wouldn’t have gotten a US release if the American remake The Ring wasn’t made. It also spawned a tidal wave of J-horror coming to the states and a few more American remakes.
Let’s just stick with this movie at the moment.
The movie is about a reporter named Reiko Asakawa who is investigating a mysterious VHS tape that a legend says whoever watches it dies after seven days. Reiko’s niece is one of the victims of the tape.
Now, some people were confused as to why they’re still using VHS tapes in 2002. One reason is the book took was published in 1991 and the Japanese version was released in 1998. The tape is also found in an old inn run by an old couple.
With that, this movie is a lot more subtle than American horror and more of a mystery story than horror. Japanese horror tends to be slower-paced than American horror and prefers to build up suspense than constant scares every second. That right there is why this movie is so creepy. It builds up this mystery as to why this tape exists and slowly brings in the lore of Sadako (“The Girl from The Ring” as people know her as.) Not to mention the real horror is Sadako. Why did she make the tape and what happened to her? The movie (kinda) answers these questions.
Yes, some people may not think this movie is scary and Sadako a joke, but you need to think that this movie is influenced by Japanese lore. Sadako is what’s an Onryo which translates to something like “vengeful spirit.” Her clothes aren’t rags, they’re funeral garbs that are traditionally placed on the dead during a funeral.
As far as her coming out a well, that’s based on another legend called Okiku with different versions. A samurai named Tessan Aoyama tried to seduce a girl named Okiku but she refuses. In one version Aoyama hides one of ten valuable Dutch plates and threatens Okiku to tell everyone she stole one of the plates. She throws herself into the well and drowns out of desperation. In another version, Okiki breaks the plates, Aoyama kills her and throws her into the well. In another version, Okiku’s Well is found in the real-life Himeji Castle where Okiku was a servant who overhead Aoyama planning something against his master. Okiki overheard it and brought the plot to light. Aoyama found out and said that Okiku stole ten valuable plates which caused Okiku to get tortured to death and thrown down the well.
Now that you know that, give this movie another chance. Yes, it’s slow-paced but all it’s doing is building up a mystery. Better yet, think of Ringu as more of a mystery than horror and maybe you’ll enjoy it better.