Ring (Japan 1998)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 5/30/10
Cast: Nanako Matsushima, Hiroyuki Sanada

Internationally recognized as the film that brought Japanese horror to the forefront, and subsequently responsible for its downfall due to countless imitations and knock-offs. Four teenagers die at exactly the same time under unexplainable circumstances. A rumor starts circulating that they had all watched a bizarre video at a remote hotel in the mountains, stating that they would die in seven days. News reporter Reiko Asakawa (Nanako Matsushima) starts investigating the story and manages to track down the original tape. Of course she ends up watching it, which seals her fate. She contacts her ex-husband Ryuji (Hiroyuki Sanada) who has ESP and shows him the tape, effectively sentencing him to death. Together, the two of them frantically search for a way to lift the curse, and in the process uncover the sad history of a supernatural girl named Sadako.

The film is superbly made and does an excellent job of inducing chills through creepy imagery and spooky music. Both of the leads are very strong, and veteran Hiroyuki Sanada gives an extremely gripping performance. Unfortunately, there were bits of the film I didn't like, and Ryuji's ESP seemed odd and out of place. His character is also a bit of a jerk. I actually thought the Korean remake was a better film and had a more robust narrative structure, but maybe that's because I saw it first. I seem to recall it featuring a much stronger and more prominent female lead, and the investigation was more scientific and matter of fact. However, it's hard for me to compare them since I saw that one nearly ten years ago. Regardless, they are both excellent films and highly recommended for fans of intelligent supernatural horror.