Back in the early 2000s, I was in high school and was part of the demographic that fled to the theaters when American remakes of popular Japanese films were hitting the screens almost every month. Images of girls with long black wet hair crawling in stuttering motion brought the chills and was great for the box office.
This died down rather quickly but the imagery remained iconic for western audiences and are still spoken about today. The Ring started off this trend back in 2002 and made fans think twice before slipping in a VHS. The film not only was a huge financial success, grossing over $200 million, but it genuinely scared a lot of its audience. This was apparent when future horror movies were being advertised and I would see a “scarier than THE RING!” quote sprawled across the screen.
For the uninitiated, The Ring is based on a 1998 film called RINGU which was also based on a novel of the same name. RINGU was a huge success back east, leading to a bigger franchise that’s still running. The Ring attempted the same, but the direct sequel lacked the same appeal and the reboot Rings was a copy and paste cringeworthy experience. However, The Ring was a faithful remake that was able to translate well to American audiences.
RINGU follows the story of a reporter, Reiko, who is investigating an urban legend of a cursed video tape that kills you seven days after watching it. One of those victims was her own niece who meets her demise in a creepy and unforgettable intro. Reiko brings the tape to her ex husband who is skeptical of the myth. Together, their research leads to a place with a deadly history and a little girl who got punished for it all, leaving behind a curse that never seems to die.
Despite being a few years older, RINGU carries the iconic imagery that made the American remake so successful and still holds up. While it might not scare me, I can still remember my little brother being terrified of this movie and even some other people that were my age at the time. I prefer RINGU as cultural differences help make superstitions a bit more believable. Films like The Grudge did an excellent job of placing an American in Japan that was new to cultural standards and unaware of the murderous past the house held.
Arrow Video has put out one of their best releases here with RINGU. Not only is there a great transfer of a 90s movie to show off on modern HD TVs, but there’s plenty to explore with documentaries covering the original franchise along with video essays. An interesting commentary accompanies the audio track from film historian David Kalat and fans will love, or be too scared to watch, Sadako’s infamous movie that becomes a catalyst of all these events.
If you’re not sure or are new to the franchise, then this solo release is the way to go. Arrow is surprisingly giving fans the chance to choose between just RINGU or a box set of the films for those who love the sequels. I’m a personal fan and hope more people pick up these gems. RINGU is now available to own on Blu-ray from Arrow Video.