Horror Week: Ringu (1998) Review

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There is legitimate argument that Ringu isn’t a horror movie at all. The Japanese cult movie feels like it should be a horror and has a great horror premise but when you actually watch the movie, it never really delivers the scares at all.

That isn’t to say it is trying and doesn’t succeed but that Ringu doesn’t even seem to try to be scary. It isn’t a movie with jump-scares throughout or the need to shock with disturbing images. The idea of the movie is based in horror but the delivery is much more of a psychological thriller.

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The idea of a killer videotape is a good one

That initial idea is a very good one and plays well on the urban legend trend. The story centers around a videotape that if watched will kill the viewer seven days later. A simple premise with plenty of potential and Ringu uses some of that potential very well.

For starters, the videotape itself is very creepy. The images that flash on screen when the central character Reiko, played by Nanako Matsushima, finally watches the tape are strange and sometimes disturbing and set the style and tone of the mystery well. It is a mystery too and the investigation will be what most of the movie is about.

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The film has an interesting mystery to solve

Unfortunately, the investigation isn’t that interesting. There are some very strange moments which work effectively, like men with hoods over their heads pointing ominously off-screen, but other than that this is a strange story about a weird little girl. It doesn’t have a huge amount of revelation around it and when the mystery is solved, it feels slightly underwhelming rather than offering a satisfying resolution.

What Ringu does very well is the false-finish. The finale and the resolution of the mystery don’t necessarily mean the story has ended. Although the movie is not scary, that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have it’s moments and the now famous revelation of the film’s protagonist is one of the most iconic movie scenes of all time.

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There are some suitably creepy moments

That moment, when the video’s subject is revealed, is executed so well that it is worth sitting through the whole movie to witness it in it’s full context. It is an unnerving scene, although once the biggest moment of the scene is over, it still has a slightly underwhelming feel to it.

There is a lot of potential with Ringu and the sequels which have been made show that much more can be produced from a very unique idea. The slight twist at the end works very well and gives the idea a fresh direction, just not a particularly scary one.

Overall, Ringu is a horror movie without the scares. Much more of a psychological thriller or even supernatural mystery, it has a great idea which feels under-utilised. Very vivid and unique imagery aside, and of course “that” scene, you are left with a fairly pedestrian movie which struggles to live up to it’s promise.

Rating – 3

(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)

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Iconic, but not particularly scary


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