By the time Ringu had hit UK cinemas, a full two years had passed since Hideo Nakata’s vision based on the novel by Koji Suzuki was realised in front of a Japanese audience, becoming the highest grossing horror film for the country.
When I finally sat down to watch the film to shelter from a wet summer in London, at one of my regular haunts, The Curzon Soho, I was unaware of the significant impact it would have on my own journey through the realms of horror cinephilia. It would mark the rise of J-Horror alongside Pulse (Kairo) and The Grudge and in its wake, would revolutionise the genre, and push numerous Western remakes and similarly styled movies for the best part of a decade.
Part of its appeal would be generated through the grainy film effect, with a slowly drawn out, tension building threat to generate a new style of scare. It came at a peak time during the transition of old and new technology, thrusting the fears of ancient beliefs and rituals with a growing anxiety over the future of mankind. By infusing these two elements, it confronted its audience, daring them to awaken their agitation and curse them, fueling this further and forcing the characters we follow to an early grave.
For me though Suzuki and Nakata’s brilliance comes through bringing the onryō, otherwise known as a vengeful spirit, before a modern audience. With the character of Sadako, the creatives found a host to enact her wrath and fury upon any who encountered her spirit. With all this pent up aggression tied in with her supernatural abilities; a visually striking and haunting look, namely the long black hair cast over the female face, hiding the true horror from the unwitting recipient, whilst clothed in a full white dress; a symbol itself a juxtaposition of innocence and purity, would thrust her front and centre into cinematic history.
It’s now been 25 years since its official release and yet its resonance is still felt. When watching it again, I am instantly transported back to my first viewing in a darkened auditorium, and the thrills and scares that were evoked. It’s why Ringu always makes its way towards the top of my all time favourite horror film list. It’s iconic and translates across time and culture.
- Saul Muerte
Check out more thoughts from the Surgeons team in our podcast episode about the Ring franchise.