The original* Japanese creepy girl horror movie, I can’t believe it has been around for 16 years** and I’ve only just managed to see it! In the end it wasn’t as scary or as creepy as I was expecting but actually more of a slow moving thriller/paranormal investigation story. It relies more on atmosphere and psychological horror than jump scares and gore ans is therefore just the kind of horror movie that I find can actually scare me. However, this one wasn’t really that scary but more of an interesting thriller.
The story of the film is well known by now to most people, even those who haven’t seen it, and it has been remade for western audiences and copied so many times. The first part of the film is a relatively slow paced investigation of a seeming urban legend involving a video tape that kills you 7 days after you watch it. After discovering that the legend has claimed the lives of a relative and her friends, journalist Reiko and her ex-husband Ryūji set out to find out what happened.
Slowly they become convinced that the events have a supernatural origin and their investigations lead them to a dysfunctional family with psychic powers and infanticidal tendencies. After the relatively normal first part, the introduction of supernatural powers and psychic creation of killer videotapes is a bit of a dramatic change but as we find out about this at the same pace as the characters we can share in their surprise and shock.
It is pretty annoying that, even after they have satisfied themselves that the tape is dangerous, Reiko and Ryūji still watch it and even copy it and leave it lying around where other innocent people could watch it. I know that they found out interesting things by doing this and Reiko at least is a journalist and therefore driven by trying to find the truth, perhaps more than concern for her own well being. But it seems that destroying the tape would have been the best way to deal with the situation. OK so they accidentally find out how to avoid getting killed after watching the tape but [SPOILERS] only at the expense of one of their lives, endangering the life of their son and requiring more people to watch the tape chain letter style.
The film feels a little dated and perhaps a bit slow and rough around the edges when compared to today’s similar horror films but this isn’t really a bad thing. Modern horror films, while incorporating a lot of the creepy atmospheric elements of films like Ringu, are all about jump scares and gore. It is nice to see a film that is happy to mostly allow the horror to come from the viewers mind rather than trying to make you jump or gross you out with gore. It makes good and sparing use of now well overused tropes like creepy things going on in the background of scenes or glimpsed briefly in mirrors. These days it seems that you can’t make a film of this type without stuffing it full of these things but few use them to such good effect.
The thank-god-that’s-over-oh-shit-no-it-isn’t ending is a bit cliché even if you consider that this is one of the originals of this particular sub-genre but is reasonably well handled. There is relatively little explanation of the solution at the end, it is just kind of accepted that copying the tape and getting someone else to watch it lets you off the hook. And of course it sets things up nicely for a sequel which (gasp) was released at the same time and (gasp again) I haven’t seen yet.
*Certainly in the minds of the majority of western movie-goers, there may be others that I haven’t heard of!
**Ringu was released in 1998, it is getting towards the end of 2016 now so I guess I must have started to write this post 2 years ago and never got round to finishing it!