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  Ring You've Been Framed
Year: 1998
Director: Hideo Nakata
Stars: Nanako Matsushima, Hiroyuki Sanada, Miki Nakatani, Yuko Takeuchi
Genre: Horror, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 3 votes)
Review: There's a story going around about this mysterious videotape. Some teenagers watched what was on it, and they immediately received a phone call saying they only had one week to live... and they did. But that's only a tall story, right? That's what Tomoko thought when she told her best friend about it when she was over one night; alone in the house they attempted to scare each other, but in a jokey way, until the telephone rang. It was only her mother checking up on her, and the girls laughed that they had fooled themselves - or had they?

Director Hideo Nakada's extremely creepy horror was a big hit in Japan, adapted from the first in a series of popular novels there, and gained a following in the West, indeed across the world, as one chiller not to watch late at night or on your own - or both, for that matter. In Western terms, if you took Scream, replace the killer with the TV set from Poltergeist and add the type of folklore of The Blair Witch Project, then you'll have the starting point for Ring. If anything Ring capitalised on the urban myths that proliferated, the ones whose sole aim was to frighten the living daylights out of you.

That was because they had that patina of possible truth, of course, so imagine if those biscuits you were eating on the train really did belong to the passenger opposite, or that granny really had tried to dry off her newly bathed poodle in the microwave with terrible results. Except Nakata had his own ready-made myth to conjure with here, and it all rested upon that strange videotape that places a curse on you should you be unlucky - or simply curious - enough to watch it. The film took its time, but stick with it past the first revelation of what was on that tape and you would be rewarded.

It found its fear in mundane, everyday objects like televisions, telephones, cameras and cassettes, many of them soon to be obsolete-looking as the 21st century dawned: the paraphernalia of the banal which mixed with the supernatural rendered the whole yarn oddly convincing within the confines of the movie, and that was all that mattered. If anything, that backstory about psychics and murder was overexplaining the affair, as if once they had that killer idea they couldn't leave it alone; its strength was in the simplicity of its central idea, so it was one of those films where it's better not to know too much about it before you watch it. Naturally, with the film ending the way it did, that became more difficult to do with time.

Especially in the light of the similarly successful, but inferior in every way, American remake, which had the impression of being so excited by its tricks that it overstated where the Japanese had understated, so if you truly did not know the outcome and were curious, you would be recommended to stick with the original. As it was, like many a ghost story Ring was a detective tale, as journalist Nanako Matsushima found her interest piqued and paid the price, bringing in her ex-husband Hiroyuki Sanada and their small son into the nightmare. With just a week to go before she received that fateful phone call spelling her doom, the whole thing becomes a race against time, except that what they do not know is there is one crucial piece of the puzzle missing. Some have seen this as an example of the guilt Japanese society feels over their broken homes, more likely you'll see a subtle but inexorably building terror movie which spawned countless imitators, and all without a drop of gore. Music by Kenji Kawai.

Aka: Ringu
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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