Saturday, October 31, 2015

Ringu


  Now here's a movie with a ton of exposure. Ringu is the victim of at least two remakes, one prequel that I know of, and a few sequels so far. So, in the wake of all of that... how does it hold up? Exceptionally well actually. It's far from what I expected, and much better to boot. I thought this was going to buckle under it's weighty reputation a lot like The Exorcist did for me, but that wasn't the case at all. Ringu is a horror movie in the sense that it revolves around horrific things like a deadly supernatural curse and murder and stuff like that- but... Ringu is nothing like a conventional horror movie.

   It's antagonist has been over-exposed, the concept has been done to death and even parodied, but going back to the source- the original, I found a haunting and methodical drama/thriller with a creeping supernatural pulse in it. The movie is about an investigative reporter named Reiko Asakawa who's been doing a story on a 'cursed video' that's been the topic of much discussion among lots of youths in the area. At first, brushed off as urban legend, a bit of digging turns up articles, news footage, and facts that seem to corroborate the rumors. As the gossip wheel goes, it gets around about a group of friends that all died 7 days after watching this 'cursed video'.

   The details seem to vary slightly from person to person, but Reiko ferrets out the source and discovers the actual video. Curiosity gets the better of her and she watches the damn tape. She absolutely believes she will die in 7 days now, and the movie is on the same page as her. Some movies try to angle the plot to make the audiences unsure if the curse or whatever is real or not. Ringu doesn't do that. The curse is real. Reiko is going to die in a week unless she finds a loop hole. She immediately seeks help from her ex-husband who helps her analyze the video, but of course this means he ends up watching it to. The movie is a race against time as now both protagonist's have an expiration date on their lives.

  The movie is full of research and melodrama. It's a very macabre outing full of death and creepy imagery. The more Reiko and her ex investigate the video, the more strange it seems. Even after we discover what it really is, the tension and the suspense doesn't fade. If anything it's more scary. That's a lesson more horror movies should learn. More often than not, the twist of a horror movie undercuts the tone and theme it's been cultivating all along. Especially in ghost stories. So often will I find ghost movies where the ghost that's been portrayed as evil all along is actually not evil at all. Whatever. It's horrible. Ringu doesn't do that. What's evil at the start, is evil at the end- even if we understand it a lot more.

   The real star of Ringu is it's atmosphere. It does so much with so little that I was completely impressed. Key images are scoured for detail as Reiko rushes to find out more about the video, and those images stay with us throughout the movie. Then we have the tried and true use of lighting and darkness. Creepy hallways, eerie rooms- a distinct sense of dread. Never does Ringu stoop to being bloody or graphic. It's a movie dripping with the most rich and eerie atmosphere imaginable. It doesn't need to dole out jump scares or splash blood at our feet to frighten the viewers. It's much more sophisticated. Though you wouldn't think so from it's reputation.

  Ringu is a mystery thriller at it's core, and it's a damn good one at that. I was genuinely curious about what was going to happen to the main characters, and the movie finds ways to consistently up the stakes as things progress. There's no chase scenes, there's no maniac with a knife, there's no blood splatter, and no scream queens- yet Ringu seems closer to the essence of what horror movies should be about than most horror movies actually are. If you knew you were going to die in a week, how would you act? With every second of every day ticking away, bringing you closer to a horrific death... could you even compose yourself enough to do the desperate research Reiko must do to find an out?

  The concept of Ringu is fantastic and is scarier than any amount of butcher knives and fake blood. The movie is psychologically scary, forsaking easy scares for more thoughtful and introspective ones. There's also a strong emotional core to the story and it made it easier for me to invest in the characters. If you haven't seen Ringu before, I recommend you give it a shot. It's not the unbearably horrifying movie it's been made out to be, but instead it's more of a creeping sense of dread, an impending and inescapable feeling of doom stretched out over it's 90 minute runtime. What could be scarier than that?

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