COMPULSIVE FRANCHISE DISORDER — “Ringu/ The Ring: Part 1 (1998-2005)”

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This specific review series is technically a continuation of my review binge for “Ju-On/ The Grudge (Part 1)” franchise… and yes, I am fully aware that “Ringu” came out first and directly influenced both “Ju-On” and it’s American remake and it would’ve made a lot more sense to begin with this — but guess which franchise is easier to stream? I doubt my writings for “Ringu” or its own American remakes will be as elaborate, as “The Ring” and “The Grudge“, both the Japanese and American films, share much of the same history and walked nearly identical paths. Even my history with the franchises are practically the same, as I was introduced to them both through the Hollywood remakes and was so enthralled that I not only pursued the Japanese originals, but explored the labyrinths of Asian horror — particularly of the Japanese variety. I remember seeing trailers for “The Ring” nearly every time I would go to the theaters and quickly grew sick of them, feeling absolutely no interest in seeing the movie they were promoting. Yet the reviews were positive enough that I decided to give it a look and… I’m pretty sure I could’ve used a change of underpants… Whereas I liked “The Grudge” when it was released two years later, I absolutely loved “The Ring“. I loved it so much that when I saw the Japanese original, I vouched for its remake as the superior film. Unfortunately, like many great films the whole concept was watered down and ruined by shitty sequels, shittier imitations and admittedly amusing parodies. It’s easy to forget how influential and successful it was at the time because everyone has seemingly forgotten about Samara and her cursed tape these days. I have to confess that I don’t think I’ve even seen “The Ring” since my sophomoric viewing (on video this time). So will I still favor the American remake over the Japanese classic? Will either of them withstand the test of time? We’ll have to see.

Much like my take on “Ju-On/The Grudge“, I’m going to split this review series in two parts, with this specific one encompassing the franchise’s rise and peek of international popularity. I will also include “Rasen” (the discarded sequel), “Ring: Kanzenban” (the made-for-TV adaptation that predated “Ringu (1998)“) and “The Ring Virus” (South Korean adaptation), although I might not adhere to the order of releases. I haven’t decided if I want to talk about these black sheep entries after their canonical equivalents, as my reviews will be how they relate to them, or if I’ll just include them as bonus reviews at the end. It’s a good thing that I’m a fake critic, or that might seem very unprofessional.

ADDITIONAL NOTE: I shall refer to the Japanese films as “Ringu” and the Hollywood ones as “The Ring“, even though they obviously mean the same thing.

RINGU (1998)

(Directed by Hideo Nakata)

(Written by Hiroshi Takahashi)

(Starring Nanako Matsushima, Hiroyuki Sanada and Rikiya Ôtaka)

Just because I preferred “The Ring (2002)” at the time doesn’t mean that I didn’t appreciate “Ringu“. I thought it was creepy even back then, but it never outright scared me and I think my greatest takeaway upon my first viewing was how similar the movies were, even if the directors had very different executions of what were essentially the same stories. I would learn over the years that “Ringu” was adapted from a series of novels, but that they were pretty different from the movies they would inspire. From what I understand, the first novel was actually ambiguous as to whether there is a supernatural origin to the cursed tape, with the sequels gradually becoming… medical thrillers? I — Um… Okay then. The source material had a more faithful adaptation in the made-for-TV 1995 film of the same name, which would later be called “Ring: Kanzenban” to differentiate it from this one. When developing “Ringu” though, the filmmakers felt that the story would appeal to a wider audience if they played up the supernatural elements and… they were right… The original novel might’ve been successful, but “Ringu” ended up becoming one the highest grossing films of its year at the Japanese box office and immediately molded the genre in its image.

Reiko (Nanako Matsushima) is a journalist struggling to take care of her young son Youchi (Rikiya Ōtaka). She stumbles upon an urban legend surrounding a cursed tape. Supposedly — if you watch it, you will die in seven days. “Ringu” is definitely a slow burner, as Reiko and her (possibly psychic) ex husband Ryūji (Hiroyuki Sanada) investigate the truth about the tape, with very few ghosts in sight. Yet it’s never boring, as the story remains focused on their investigation and somehow resists the expected ‘falling back in love’ subplot. I was actually surprised that they never even really discuss why their relationship fell apart or why Ryuji turned into such an absent Father, although the filmmakers drop hints via subtext. There’s certainly a strange and uncomfortable tension between all of them, but it adds to the unease that the audience is already feeling. “Ringu” is never what I would call scary… at least until the ending (maybe)… but it is very suspenseful. Every clue our heroes unearth only seems to add upon their dread and they look genuinely nervous as their ‘deadline’ approaches. Hideo Nakata’s direction is chilling and effective, but a large part of why “Ringu” works is because his cast conveys fear so convincingly — and fear is contagious to an invested audience. I do feel like the horrifying finale has lost some of its power… mostly because it became an overexposed part of pop culture… but “Ringu” isn’t really dependent on the “shocking” reveal. It’s more interested in the ominous storm clouds in the distance, the sounds of waves crashing against the beach, the trembling of the characters as they brace for their impending doom. The ending is not the story, only a part of it, so I think the movie has aged very well.

I guess you can argue that “Ringu” is dated because of its reliance on outdated technology, but… meh… VHS tapes have always had an aura of mystery that DVD’s and Blu-Ray’s lack, so I think they’re more interesting, at least within the context of one of these kinds of stories. Plus — let’s face it, if Sadako were to give us a call today, we probably wouldn’t even answer the phone because we don’t recognize the number. Modern technology has been a big obstacle for horror in general, so I just simply go with it.

Rating: 8/10 ★★★★★★★★☆☆ 


RING: KANZENBAN (1995)” is the made-for-TV adaptation of the novel and actually predates “Ringu” by three years, but I wanted to talk about it afterwards as I thought it would be fun to compare and contrast the two, as this also has the distinct honor of being the most faithful to the source material… for better or worse. I’m at a little bit of a disadvantage here, as I haven’t read the novels, nor am I all that familiar with Japanese television from the 1990’s, so I don’t know how this compares with other television productions of the time period. You can definitely tell that this was produced on a shoe string budget, as it was clearly made using cheaper equipment and relies a bit too much on bad special effects. What makes “Ring: Kanzenban” interesting though is how it shares the same story as “Ringu“, yet they’re both fundamentally different. For one, “Ringu” belongs firmly within the horror genre, while “Kanzenban” is more of a suspenseful mystery. Asakawa (Katsunori Takahashi) is a reporter who stumbles upon a strange series of deaths that may or may not be connected. He will eventually find the ‘cursed tape’ and uncover more-or-less the same mystery as “Ringu“, but there is less of an emphasis on the paranormal. They don’t even mention the tape until around the 30 minute mark and while Sadako (Ayane Miura) can occasionally be spotted in crowds, she resembles a normal teenage girl and doesn’t do anything particularly creepy. The only time “Ring: Kanzenban” wanders into being a horror story is during the climax, which boasts some admittedly spooky cinematography in spite of the low production values. The differences between “Ring: Kanzenban” and “Ringu” are both what make “Ring: Kanzenban” worth watching and… worth avoiding… It’s intriguing seeing a different take on the same material, but when the entire narrative is built around a mystery that has since become a significant part of pop culture, it’s going to lose a lot of its power. “Ringu” wasn’t dependent on its twist ending, but “Ring: Kanzenban” kind of is.

What did shock me about “Ring: Kanzenban“, however, was how much sex was apparently allowed in Japanese television throughout the 1990’s. There are quite a few breasts on display and even some pubic hair, so… that was unexpected….”Ring: Kanzenban” is neither particularly good or bad, but it’s an interesting novelty if you want to know what the book is (apparently) like. Funny fact — “Ring: Kanzenban” was originally just called “Ring” and only added the ‘Kanzenban’ to the title to differentiate it from the much more successful adaptation. This poor TV movie supposedly did well in the ratings, but no one remembers it anymore. I actually wouldn’t mind if a future adaptation returned to the source material, preferably with a bigger budget, as it sounds intriguing.

Rating: 5/10 ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆ 


THE RING VIRUS (1999)” is the South Korean remake of “Ringu” and it’s… not bad… Of course, one could argue that it’s far worse than just being ‘bad’, as it commits the cardinal sin of being identical to “Ringu” without being anywhere near as good. The filmmakers try to differentiate this from the original by adapting unused elements of the book, such as the hermaphrodite take on Sadako’s South Korean equivalent — Park Eun-suh (Bae Doona), but they rush through it so quickly that one has to wonder if they covered that begrudgingly. There was also a strange attempt at commentary on sexual expression, but it seemingly peters out early on. “The Ring Virus” is still competently made though, boasting polished cinematography, an effective score and a stellar cast. I actually liked Sun-ju (Eun-Kyung Shin) and Choi (Jung Jin-young) quite a bit as the sleuths investigating the cursed tape. Their terse banter was somewhat engaging, but it’s at the expense of Sun-ju’s troubled relationship with her daughter… which is kind of supposed to be the heart of the story… I actually forgot she even had a kid until the plot demanded the stakes be raised. By then, it was just too hard to care.

I might’ve found “The Ring Virus” spookier if I hadn’t already seen “Ringu” already craft the same scares, albeit with a better sense of pacing. “The Ring Virus” seems to plod when it should be picking up the pace and then seems to hurry when it should be slowing down, drawing out the tension. There are certainly a few effective moments and it’s not like its recreations of the iconic scenes were handled poorly, it’s just that once again… it’s too similar and not as good. Say what you will about the Hollywood remake, but “The Ring” found its own ways of frightening audiences, even if it was fundamentally the same movie. Even “Ring: Kanzenban“, which might be technically inferior to “The Ring Virus“, offers a different experience from the others. “The Ring Virus” has… ummm… South Korean names filling out the cast of characters? That’s about it.

Rating: 4.5/10 ★★★★½☆☆☆☆☆ 

RASEN (1998)

(Written and Directed by Jôji Iida)

(Starring Kôichi Satô, Miki Nakatani and Hiroyuki Sanada)

Now this is where things start to get really strange for the franchise. Usually sequels are only produced as a response to the success of a film, but clearly the studio suspected that they had a hit on their hands with “Ringu“, so developed the sequel — “Rasen” (or “Spiral“) — at the same time, so they could share release dates. The idea was that people would be so enamored with “Ringu” that they would immediately want to see “Rasen” afterwards. The problem is neither teams of filmmakers seemed to know or care about what the other was doing, so “Rasen” apparently feels more like a sequel to the novel “Ringu“, not the movie “Ringu” — even though they share some of the same cast and crew. It leans more into the medical thriller side of the story and is both tonally and aesthetically different from the first film.  The marketing ploy failed, as audiences were so enamored with “Ringu” that they didn’t even notice “Rasen” was available to them… and those who did felt alienated by how different it was. The movie was such a failure that it was scrubbed out of the continuity and replaced with the more satisfying “Ringu 2“, leading to “Rasen” becoming the ‘forgotten sequel’…

Before I sat down to watch it though, I made the conscious decision to have an open mind. I knew that “Rasen” would not be a horror film like its predecessor. I knew that it would reinterpret the characters in ways that wouldn’t fit the continuity of its predecessor. I knew that it would be tonally, thematically and aesthetically at odds with its predecessor so… why the f@ck should we even complain about it at this point? It’s been over 20 years, was replaced by a ‘real’ sequel and has been followed by a franchise with plenty of highs and lows. It’s like continuing to bitch about “Halloween III” for not having Michael Myers — JUST GET OVER IT ALREADY. With all of that said, it’s not like “Rasen” is worth championing either. It’s not… terrible… at least from the standpoint that it was competently made (er, this sounds familiar). The performances were good, the characters were sympathetic, the writing was (usually) fine and the cinematography reflected the bleak nature of the story. Even if I did not like how it deviated from the first film, “Rasen” does have some pretty interesting ideas on its own, so I have to give it credit for trying something different. Yet throughout everything… I was pretty f@cking bored.

I spent the majority of the movie unsure why I felt so thoroughly detached from what was happening, as most of it seemed OK enough, but I think I figured it out. For one — the music felt really out of place. This is supposed to be a somber drama, surrounded by science fiction, garnished with a hint of horror… yet the score sounded like it belonged in either a campy film noir or a cheesy action flick. It kept taking me out of the movie, especially during the more tragic and emotional moments. The second issue was that the editing seemed kind of rough. The cuts lacked a certain flow to them, making the already slow pace much choppier than it needed to me. These are admittedly… questionable… faults, as they might’ve been deliberate creative choices from the director that just didn’t work out. I was still ready to give “Rasen” a passing grade up until around the last 30 minutes. I thought we were approaching the finish, but instead the filmmakers try to cram an entire movie’s worth of story into one third act. NOTHING in the end made sense to me. I didn’t understand why characters were suddenly eager to bring about the apocalypse. I was confused as to what just happened and how it happened… even though the last 10 minutes is just one big info dump. This might make more sense in the books, but is also why the movies were right to downplay a medical and scientific side of the curse. It’s hard to actually explain this stuff without relying too much on exposition that might not clarify a damn thing. I love the book of “Jurassic Park” and don’t mind the many chapters dedicated to the technical jargon because I can process it at my own pace or thumb through it to get to the action. But if the “Jurassic Park” film had attempted to contain even a fraction of that, it would’ve sucked because you can’t just rewind or fast forward at your leisure — at least without ruining the intended pace. “Rasen” might be a faithful adaptation to a good book, but that doesn’t automatically make it a compelling movie… even if it had better music and editing.

Rating: 4.5/10 ★★★★½☆☆☆☆☆ 

RINGU 2 (1999)

(Directed by Hideo Nakata)

(Written by Hiroshi Takahashi)

(Starring Miki Nakatani, Rikiya Otaka and Nanako Matsushima)

After the dismal reception of “Rasen“, the studio immediately buried its existence and entered production on a sequel that would replace “Rasen” in the official continuity of the film series. They would bring back director Hideo Nakata from “Ringu“, re-hire the original cast and distance themselves from the novels. “Ringu 2” opened to mixed reviews, with nearly everyone agreeing that it wasn’t as scary as the first one, but it still conquered the Japanese box office, bringing in over twice as much money as its already profitable predecessor. “Ringu 2” remains the most financially successful of the Japanese side of the franchise, which is another parallel with the “Ju-On” film series, whose sophomore effort also had the most ticket sales.

I remember watching “Ringu 2″ when it was first released in the United States, but I couldn’t actually remember anything about it, other than the faint sting of disappointment. I don’t think I actively disliked it, yet I also don’t remember being particularly impressed with it either. This recent viewing was a very interesting experience for me because… I really liked this… “Ringu” is definitely the superior movie, boasting a tighter structure and more natural tension, but “Ringu 2” is equally creepy, if not more so — at least in my opinion. Hideo Nakata paces every scene in such a way that even when nothing supernatural or suspicious is occurring, there’s an underlining tension in everything. The cast seems to sense that something is amiss too. You would expect that after the horrific climax of the first film, Sadako would be less camera shy, but she actually gets less screen-time here. Her presence is always felt though and I liked how “Ringu 2” expands upon the mythology, without stripping away any of its mystery. There aren’t many truly scary moments, but the filmmakers keep planting so many unsettling seeds that somehow make Sadako even scarier, like how she apparently survived in that well for 40 years (!!!). Even though most of us were disappointed that Reiko (Nanako Matsushima) had been demoted into a glorified cameo, I thought Mai (Miki Nakatani) held her own as a solid protagonist. She briefly appeared in the first film as Ryuji’s (Hiroyuki Sanada) lover, but we learn that she shares his psychic abilities and her pointedly staying away from the cursed tape makes her the smartest character in the whole franchise. I also liked the supporting cast, but this is admittedly where the film fumbles somewhat.

I thought the story was at its most compelling when Mai, journalist Okazaki (Yūrei Yanagi), Detective Omuta (Kenjirō Ishimaru) and Doctor Kawajiri (Fumiyo Kohinata) were investigating Sadako and her cursed tape, as they offered different perspectives on how to deal with it. But some of those characters unceremoniously disappear, making me wonder why they were there in the first place. I actually thought Okazaki had the most compelling dilemma amongst them, but they don’t do enough with it. This all culminates in an ending that doesn’t quite satisfy. I don’t know if it’s because they introduce science fiction elements — presumably from the book — or if it’s because it gets a little sappy. I feel like the ideas behind the ending are pretty scary and thrilling, but for whatever reason, they don’t come together. Nevertheless, “Ringu 2” was a stellar continuation of “Ringu“. Because I couldn’t remember any of it, I felt like I was watching “Ringu 2” for the first time and had no idea what would happen next. This begs the question… why did I brush it aside the first time? I think that has to do with “Ringu 2” being much slower paced than the first film and I just didn’t have the patience that I do today. Much of the spookiness is dependent on the patience of the viewer.

Rating: 7/10 ★★★★★★★☆☆☆ 


(Directed by Norio Tsuruta)

(Written by Hiroshi Takahashi)

(Starring Yukie Nakama, Seiichi Tanabe and Kumiko Asô)

Ringu 0: Birthday“… yeah, I’m not entirely sure whose birthday it is either… is a prequel to “Ringu“, if the zero in the title didn’t give that away. Sadako (Yukie Nakama) is not yet the murderous ghoul we would all come to know and love, but a socially awkward, beautiful, aspiring actress, who falls in love with Tôyama (Seiichi Tanabe). But strange things have been occurring at the theater troupe they work at ever since Sadako joined. Everyone seems to be sharing the same grisly dreams, the director starts showing disturbing behavior… and people are dying… Uh oh… I had a lukewarm reaction to “Ringu 0” when I first saw it nearly two decades ago, but much like “Ringu 2“, I’ve grown to appreciate it much more over the years.

This is not quite the horror story that its predecessors were as much as it’s a tragedy, surrounding a doomed romance. This was a strange creative decision, because it seems to me that “Ringu 0” was setting itself up to fail in the same way “Rasen” did, as it just doesn’t feel like a true sequel (or prequel). There is a POSSIBLE pragmatic reason behind this though, as I hear school girls are a bigger demographic for horror in Japan, so presumably won’t be driven away by all this ‘lovey dovey’ stuff. I actually found myself invested in the love story, as the actors are likable in their roles and their interactions are genuinely cute. “Ringu 0” also has a very strong grasp of mood. The music, lighting and deliberate pacing all convey an eerie sense of unease, which the cast reflects in their performances. This builds up to a finale that at the absolute least, tries something totally different. Sadako’s inevitable rampage takes place in the open daylight with a large group of characters, and even though audiences seem divided as to whether it worked, I thought it was effective. Honestly, it was Sadako making a… let’s say “classic”… appearance at the end which really lost me. There are a few good visuals, but she seems to literally slide on-screen and after that, I couldn’t take her seriously. I wouldn’t describe the movie as scary or even that creepy, but it is usually suspenseful, so that’s a shame — albeit a small one.  “Ringu 0” was dismissed as a “Carrie” rip-off by the critics, which I think is a little unfair, but it definitely was a financial disappointment compared to “Ringu 2“. I thought “Ringu 0” was a pretty good film though that’s easier to appreciate now knowing the eventual deterioration of the franchise, but to really appreciate it, you have to accept the shift in genres. It’s a spooky romance that doesn’t really become a ‘horror’ flick until its final act.

Rating: 7/10 ★★★★★★★☆☆☆ 

THE RING (2002)

(Directed by Gore Verbinski)

(Written by Ehren Kruger)

(Starring Naomi Watts, Martin Henderson and David Dorfman) 

Even though I was worried that “The Ring” wouldn’t have held up as well after all these years, I still found it to be an exceptional horror flick. As I said during my critique of “Ringu“, it’s the same story told differently. Rachel (Naomi Watts) is an intrepid reporter whose so good at her job that she unwittingly neglects her… troubled… son Aiden (David Dorfman). She finds herself investigating a cursed tape, but when she watches it herself — eh, why am I bothering setting up the story when I already did so before. Just replace the Japanese names with western ones. Some “Ringu” purists will dismiss this Hollywood remake for “dumbing the story down”, for containing more special effects and relying more on jump scares, but I maintain that both movies were really good at appealing to their intended audiences. “Ringu” was designed to scare Japanese viewers, “The Ring” was designed to scare American viewers. I’d also argue that they transcended cultural barriers and found a mass appeal that cemented them both as classics in their own rights, but it really comes down to preferences.

The Ring” is definitely more visceral than the original, certainly less subtle. I don’t see that as better or worse, as it comes down to individual tastes. I certainly prefer some of the changes… while also favoring some of the creative choices of “Ringu“. But a lot of the time I found that there was a worthwhile trade. For example, Noah (Martin Henderson) is the western equivalent of Ryūji (Hiroyuki Sanada), but isn’t a psychic. His ‘powers’ are instead given to Aiden, presumably just because ominously creepy children are a staple of Hollywood horror. This makes his presence in the story seem a little unnecessary at times, but on the plus side, it makes Rachel seem more isolated and vulnerable. In other instances, I like both the original and the remake in completely different ways. When people die in “Ringu“, their faces are contorted in terror and it’s effective. When people die in “The Ring“, their faces are distorted beyond recognition and it’s also effective. This remake has tighter pacing and a lot more style, focusing more on ‘scary moments’ than the slowly encompassing dread of the original. I can go either way. There are a few flaws that I didn’t recognize before. There is wasted foreshadowing of an abandoned ending that for some reason was left in the finished product. I also didn’t like Aiden. His monotone delivery was intentional and designed to be somewhat alienating, but I don’t understand that creative decision when we’re supposed to care about what happens to him. I was only able to get invested in his plight through Naomi Watts’s powerful performance as Rachel. The cast in general is really good for a lot of the same reasons that the original cast were really good, but these performers provide a little more levity… and even that may or may not be welcome depending on your own preferences. Once again, I can go either way. Nevertheless, the grumbling of purists who disliked the changes were drowned out by all the accolades and money “The Ring” was raking in. This became one of the most successful horror flicks of all time and molded the genre in its own image… and I don’t know if we’ll ever truly forgive “The Ring” for that…

Its success — alongside “The Grudge” joining its ranks — lead to a slew of soulless, cash grab remakes of Asian properties. They were so frequent and so consistently bad that even though most of them made money, they put a stigma on the appropriation of other countries films. There even reached a point where the various marketing departments would try to hide their remakes foreign roots. When “The Grudge 2” ended up being both a financial and critical disappointment, warning the industry that the trend was growing tired, all eyes turned to the genre’s last hope — “The Ring Two“.

God help us all.

Rating: 8/10 ★★★★★★★★☆☆ 


(Directed by Hideo Nakata)

(Written by Ehren Kruger)

(Starring Naomi Watts, David Dorfman and Simon Baker)

I remember watching “The Ring Two” upon release and thinking it was pretty weak, but I’ve been drawing a blank about what actually happens during it. The story? Something about Aiden (David Dorfman) being possessed. The scares? Um… Er… I got nothing, but to be fair, neither did the movie. “The Ring Two” was exceptionally boring, nearly putting me to sleep multiple times throughout its bloated running-time. It is a ploddingly paced affair that only comes to life when it’s embarrassing itself. Did the filmmakers really think audiences would be frightened of f@cking deer? Or overflowing toilets? That’s f@cking right, “The Ring Two” has f@cking toilet scares. It’s actually a surprise to learn that the director was none other than… original “Ringu” director Hideo Nakata himself! But I wasn’t too surprised to learn that the studio apparently interfered with the production, with executives from Paramount meddling both on set and in the editing room. The movie feels like it’s trying too hard to be… well, Hollywood, for lack of a better word… There are a lot of CGI effects and even if they were good (they’re not), they’re too fantastical to be creepy. The story immediately discards the cursed tape in favor of a standard possession tale, which has been done to death in American cinema. It doesn’t help that Aiden is a pretty boring character who acts like he’s being possessed by a demonic entity even before he’s actually possessed by a demonic entity, so he doesn’t behave that much differently than he did before. The filmmakers attempt to introduce a new mystery where Rachel (Naomi Watts) has to discover the truth about Samara’s real parents, but that question doesn’t even arrive until around the half way point — making the first hour and 15 minutes feel like the script stalling for time. When we start getting answers, it REALLY feels like the movie is making it up as it goes along, as the reveals don’t fit the established continuity and are kind of confusing. I will give credit to the cast for doing their best to sell all of this nonsense though.

Or maybe “The Ring Two” makes perfect sense and I was just drifting off too much.

I wish I had fallen asleep during the incredibly unsatisfying climax, which culminates in Rachel actually delivering a f@cking one liner to Samara, a moment that has to be the franchise low. I not only hated “The Ring Two” a little more for it, but I think I now like “The Ring” a little less for it too. The line seriously belonged in “Scary Movie 3“, not an actual scary movie, but that might be at least part of the problem. “Scary Movie 3” may not have been a particularly great comedy, but it did do a good job of taking the piss out of this franchise — especially when it came to Aiden. Whenever he’d speak here, I’d think of his parody equivalent using that same monotone voice and it would become so much harder to take him seriously. Even the grotesquely distorted faces of the victims in “The Ring Two”  are more reminiscent of the deaths of “Scary Movie 3” than “The Ring“, as their expressions are strangely comical. “The Ring Two” was financially successful in spite of failing with critics, fans, audiences and even its own director, but the poor reception killed the brands mainstream appeal. Subsequent Japanese sequels would hardly even get a release in the west and subsequent adaptations of Asian horror flicks would suffer from dwindling box office returns until audiences moved on to either ‘torture porn’ or ‘found footage’. Hideo Nakata’s career never really recovered either, even in Japan. His attempts to venture outside of the genre were met with indifference and his horror output seems pretty derivative of his earlier works. He recently returned to the franchise with “Sadako (2019)“, but it apparently sucks even worse than this did, so… yeah…

Rating: 3/10 ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 


So which is better, “Ringu” or “The Ring“? I used to champion the Hollywood remake as the scarier of the two, but now I think I like them both about the same. When it comes to their respective sequels, however, the Japanese side of the franchise is easily the victor. They were working at an automatic disadvantage, as the books don’t sound like they were very cinematic or marketable, so had to somehow maintain the enigma of Sadako while moving the overarching story forward. Even though “Rasen” was a misstep, the subsequent sequel and prequel found ways of keeping Sadako creepy and interesting. Why didn’t their Hollywood equivalents follow in their footsteps? I’m not sure, but it sounds like the studio wanted to make something more… American… failing to understand that part of the appeal of Asian horror in the west was that it was different from our norm. “The Ring Two” was stitched together by all of the clichés we were already tired of at that time, so unimpressed audiences and… let’s say ‘mortally wounded’ worldwide interest in Japanese horror.

For the record, Japan is still obviously interested in Japanese horror, so these kinds of ghost stories remain quite common and the shadow of “Ringu” still looms over their film industry. The brand is still active, although it took a sabbatical between the year 2000 and 2012, possibly for licensing reasons. I’m honestly stunned that there was no effort to push any of them, even as direct-to-DVD releases, in the west as you would think the name value alone would inspire some rentals. I didn’t even know these sequels existed until “Sadako Vs Kayako” was announced, showing how much of its international appeal had dried up. Eventually Paramount attempted to revive the brand in the west with “Rings“, but that movie failed so hard that they even cancelled the planned “Friday the 13th” remake. There are very few horror reboots that can recapture their past glory, as whether they’re good or bad, the general perception from audiences is that they’re obsolete. Sometimes nostalgia can be a lure, but I think the early 2000’s is too soon to play that card. “Rings” had the misfortune of being developed and released during a time when audiences were obsessing over the 1980’s, so… Why the f@ck didn’t they just revive “Friday the 13th” instead? THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN THE PERFECT TIME TO DO SO!!! Ugh, I still haven’t gotten over that… I will eventually finish this franchise, but I felt like this would be a good stopping point because my knowledge really ends here.

From this point on, I’m a stranger in a foreign land… of cinema…