"Ringu" vs. "The Ring"
"The Ring" directed by Gore Verbinski. Written by Ehren
Kruger, based on the 1998 film "Ringu."
Starring Naomi Watts.
Release Year: 2002
Review Date: 10/27/02
Every year, I do one or two side-by-side
comparisons of an American film based on a foreign film. This year,
it’s the Japanese film “Ringu” versus the new Naomi Watts version
that recently opened in theaters. Since we’ve got about a billion
film nuts here in San Francisco, it was pretty easy to find a place
to see the Japanese version—a local bar had a film night in its back
My friend Max said it best after we watched
the film—“Ringu” lulls you to sleep over the first hour; in fact, I
almost fell asleep a couple of times and my friend Toby did fall
asleep once. But, that last half an hour was friggin’ scary!
This is one of those movies that gets its
scares from a combination of straight creepy and some loud cutting
music when the straight creepy stuff showed up. The plot for the
movie involves a mysterious videotape that features a girl and a
well in the background, but you can’t quite make out what is going
on. What we do find out is that anyone that watches the tape gets
an anonymous phone call just after the tape ends and they die within
seven days of seemingly natural causes. A woman that loses someone
as a result of the tape sets out to find out just what is going on
during the footage, and enlists the help of a man that may have ties
to the footage as well.
The setup of “Ringu” is very, very boring.
Even worse is the English subtitling of the version I saw; it is so
bad at points that I was better off not reading the lines of
dialogue, because the Japanese guys who were doing the subtitling
were doing it so poorly. (In a couple of sections, characters are
having full-blown conversations and no subtitles appear. I am sure
that I missed something!) The acting is hilarious, because everyone
is so excited about saying even the smallest of things. Watching
one of the characters exclaim “The phone is for YOU!!” made me think
of those great Mr. Sparkle ads that were made up for a Simpsons
episode. “Mr. Sparkle! Cleaning dirt HONORABLY!!!!”
As bad as this setup is, though, the ending
more than makes up for it. You are guaranteed two shivers at the
So, what made sitting through the new
American version of “The Ring” tough was that I knew what was
supposed to happen. While the first two-thirds of “The Ring” is
better than “Ringu” (mostly because it is better-paced), the payoff
pitch isn’t as scary as it was in the Japanese version.
In this version, the basic setup is the
same—at the beginning of the film, two girls are talking about a
mysterious videotape that contains strange visions and is followed
by the viewer receiving an anonymous phone call from a little girl
that indicates the viewer will be killed in exactly seven days. A
relative of the girl that is killed in the intro, Rachel (Naomi
Watts, “Mulholland Drive”), watches the tape and tries to figure out
the mystery behind the tape in seven days...or she’s dead!
“The Ring” does have four or five scares,
mostly at the expense of loud, cutting sounds or music when, say, we
see the dead body of the first videotape victim, or listen to an
amped-up horse snorting in a trailer. I don’t really get much out
of these kinds of scares, mostly because the ideas themselves are
not very frightening. The other main problem with “The Ring” was
the way Rachel goes about learning the mystery of the tape; I just
didn’t feel that much discovery going on from my end, since it was
all spoon-fed to me little by little as Rachel learns the history
behind the setting of the videotape, the principal characters, what
that ladder was for...on and on. Now that I think about it, the
scariest thing in “The Ring” has got to be David Dorfman, who plays
Rachel’s son Aidan and has the scariest kid eyes and head I’ve ever
seen! How big is that kid’s head, man? Come on! The casting
agents for “The Ring” must be credited for finding a kind that looks
like an alien, because it works here...I was scared of that kid
every time he came onscreen!
Conversely, “The Ring” has its moments, and
Watts is solid in the lead of the film. Did anyone else watch “The
Ring” and think “Damn, is that Renee Zellweger?” I did that about
five times. The feel of the sets in “The Ring” is pure desolation,
so what better place to set the American version than...Seattle? It
seems to be gray all week in this film, and it reminded me of
“Se7en” in that regard; there are no bright spots along the way for
the characters that are trying to skip fate throughout the duration
of the film’s timeline.
And, at least they kept the ending of “The
Ring” the same as it was in “Ringu”...although, the film’s final
scare just freaked the hell out of me in the Japanese version,
because the Japanese filmmakers don’t lead up to it quite as
obviously as they do in “The Ring.” There are a couple of clues in
“The Ring” that allow you to possibly see things coming with that
parting shot, whereas in “Ringu”, man...whammo!
Comments? Drop me a line at
Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard