Foreign horror films are something I’ve wanted to explore more, and 31 Days of Horror seemed like the perfect opportunity to get started. Ring was my first stop, and whilst it’s a good slow-burn mystery, it wasn’t the introduction I was hoping for.
The film follows a reporter (Miki Nakatani) and her ex-husband (Nanako Matsushima) as they investigate a supposed cursed video that apparently kills its viewers on the seventh day after seeing it.
Ring was ahead of its time
The idea of a video that kills you a week after watching would have gone down a storm leading up to the 2010s. Think back to all those chain messages on social media when people converted their every thought into a Facebook status. As a fresh concept, we’d have eaten this for breakfast! I can’t speak for how well it did when released in 1998, but the story holds up I think. It’s not outdated to the point viewers today wouldn’t be able to wrap their heads around it. Plus, if you think about how easy it is to go down rabbit holes on the internet, or chase after films and TV shows that you’ve heard about, the seed of seeing something you didn’t want to is quite easy to plant.
Ring is more of a mystery than a horror film in my opinion. The film starts off as a number of disconnected deaths that come together pretty quickly to create the main narrative. Obviously as the audience, we know the link, but as to how exactly these deaths came about is something that gradually more light is shed upon as the film unfolds. You do need to remain patient as everything slowly but surely comes into perspective. All of the clues and reveals come little by little, so if you’re after a thrill in a hurry, Ring won’t do the job. It works by drawing the audience in with little breadcrumbs, giving just enough to lead you in the right direction.
What blew my mind with Ring was how little hope it gives to everyone in the story. Huge breakthroughs in the story don’t come very often, and when they do, they don’t really offer a solution to the problem posed by the cursed video. Add to this the seven-day countdown that becomes a greater looming presence as the film goes on, and it is very bleak indeed. The visuals match this hopeless vibe perfectly, however. Muted colours are everywhere, serving as a constant reminder that the future isn’t bright.
Whilst there isn’t anything particularly horrifying about the film per se, the score and sound effects do a fine job of providing a sense of dread. In Ring’s most uncomfortable moments, they dominate the soundscape, providing you with the same sensation that you’d perhaps get from hearing nails on a chalkboard, or cutlery scraping a plate. What’s great about this is there is less opportunity to escape. It’s not like with visuals where you can cover your eyes until the moment has passed – you can only sit there and let it pass over you.
A solid mystery
It might not have been the introduction to Japanese horror that I was hoping for, but Ring was an interesting watch. It’s bleak and definitely creepy in places, but it is more of a mystery than anything else, albeit quite an intriguing one. With a surprising concept for the time it was made, and a lot of restraint when it comes to giving hints to viewers, it’s an effective film that will hold your attention until the end.