Posting and commenting have been a little sporadic lately. I found this little sweetie in the alley outside my apartment and have been trying to find a permanent home for her.
Her name is Jonesy, after Jonesy in Alien, because she’s not getting left behind. I’m hopeful because I think that I have a permanent home for her. We’ve settled down into a routine, though, so I watched Ringu last night.
I love Ringu so much. It’s the first J-horror movie that I saw and I consider it the original Japanese movie that opened the J-horror floodgates in America. Sadly, this includes the remake floodgates. The many remakes of Asian films aren’t necessarily bad, what I find problematic is that many of the movies are based on folklore unique to Asia, so it seems strange to Westernize the stories.
In the past, I’ve watched Japanese movies dealing with: onibabas, which translates into “Demon-Hag,”
and the slit-mouthed woman.
Ringu is about a journalist and single-mother, Reiko Asakawa (Nanako Matsushima), tracking the origins of an urban legend linked to her niece, Tomoko’s death.
There’s supposed to be a strange VHS circulating (Ringu *did* come out in 1998, I imagine if it came out now it would be a .gif or a Youtube video) that, if you watch it, you receive a phone-call telling you you’ll die in a week and then you do die. The victims look terrified.
Reiko finds a receipt for film-developing in Tomoko’s room and tracks the photos down. One catches her eye, because everyone’s faces are weirdly distorted.
The photos lead Reiko to Izu Peninsula, on the east coast of Japan. Reiko actually finds the VHS and watches the cursed video. I’ve seen The Ring and remember the video being gory in the American version. The Japanese version is more unsettling and weird.
Then, Reiko gets a strange phone call. She realizes that the story is real. She enlists her ex-husband, Ryūji (Hiroyuki Sanada) to examine the tape with her. The pressure is on when Reiko catches Yoichi (Rikiya Ōtaka) watching the tape. Reiko decides to track what made the tape in order to try to lift the curse.
They find a phrase spoken hidden in the video. The English translation says it says, “Frolic in brine, goblins be thine.” Oddly, I’ve also found that it can mean, “if you keep on doing ‘shōmon’, the ‘bōkon’ will come for you.” This is said in the dialect of Oshima Island, which is where Reiko goes next. The Nation-State Wiki for Oshima and Izu says the county’s motto is, Shōmon bakkari shite’ru to, bōkon ga kuru zo, which means “If you play in the water, the monster will come for you.” Firstly, that is the best motto ever and I want to move to Oshima just for that. Two, it makes me figure that the alternate translation means something similar to the motto.
Reiko learns of Shizuko Yamamura at Oshima. Shizuko was a psychic who predicted a volcanic eruption. The characters floating in the cursed video say “eruption.” She’s accused of fraud when Dr. Ikuma (Daisuke Ban) tries to prove her powers scientifically. The scientist who accuses Dr. Ikuma of fraud drops dead. It turns out that Shizuko’s daughter, Sadako (Rie Inō), is way more powerful that Shizuko. Shizuko throws herself in a volcano and Dr. Ikuma kills Sadako by hitting her on the head and throwing her down a well.
Reiko and Ryuji try to find Sadako’s skeleton, in order to lift the curse. It’s a very creepy, claustrophobic scene as they take the water out of the well. The water looks disgustingly sludgy and I always get so freaked out when I see the clumps of Sadako’s hair.
So the curse is broken, right? Hmm, maybe in the Western world. What I like about Japanese ghost stories versus American ghost stories is that there doesn’t seem to be any way to appease the angry spirits in Japan. Sadako isn’t an ordinary ghost that you tell to go into the light or find where its body is hidden and then it’s ok. Sadako is an onryō, a spirit able to return to the physical world in order to exact vengeance. That’s their only concern. What I like about Ringu is that the director maintained an appearance very similar to what Sadako would look like if she were in a kabuki play. Traditionally, onryō appear in kabuki theater wearing a white funeral kimono, unkempt long black hair, and white face makeup. See why it feels weird to have an American version of this traditional, Japanese story? Furthermore, Sadako uses the power nensha, literally “sense inception,” which is the ability to psychically burn your thoughts onto a surface.
Oddly, Reiko is spared but Ryuji is found dead. Now Reiko has to find out what she did differently from Ryuji and use it to save Yoichi.
My favorite moment is when you find exactly how Sadako dispatches her victims.
I like the idea of a ghost using technology and, if this were ever to be re-remade, I’d love to see it set in the present. Imagine the curse passing from VHS to DVD to Youtube. It could decimate the world, the stakes would be much higher than in the original.
I first saw Ringu around 2002 and was presently surprised how it held up. There are still spooky moments, although the main focus is on psychological horror, not gore.
I haven’t seen any of the sequels and I don’t know if I plan to. For me, the way the movie ends and the backstory is gives is just perfect.