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The Ring (1998), A Review

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Horror is sometimes understated and underrated, as is understood with “The Ring” ...

The Ring (1998) is the first film in a series of sequels. Hideo Nakata is the inspired director. He likewise brought horror fans, Dark Water (2002). This motion picture is an adaptation of the Bancho Sarayashiki book Ring. And it is widely hailed as one of the best and most underrated horror films to be made. 

Nakata begins The Ring with an enigma. He hooks his watchers by setting the scene with a prologue to death. And, he maintains that intrigue by veiling the monster in urban fiction. We perceive something ominous is going on but are not assured of what that might be. 

Young Tomoko, the first fatality of The Ring, dies a mysterious and distressing death. And from that point, it is the curiosity of both the observer and titular character that drives the film. It is curiosity that prompts our central character, a budding news reporter, to probe into Tomoko and friends’ morbid and bizarre deaths. But, it is her naivety that sets the stage for a more compelling story.

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The Ring unfolds like a flower opening to the sun.

The introduction is gradual and full of anticipation. But the ending is splendid, like a sunflower in full blossom. The plot of The Ring is dark. But, there is nothing particularly grotesque or gory for shock value. Nakata refuses to incorporate over-the-top effects. He instead paints an authentic but understated tale of horror.

There are many gems in The Ring.

The masks of death, which are indexes of the fright the characters encounter, are mere exaggerated forms of expression. Looking upon their guise does not cause one to shiver or cover their eyes. However, although there is no shock value in the imagery, the musical score is especially horrifying. The score is full of shrill dissonance that is, at times, insufferable. The melody is reminiscent of a banshee heralding death. Even so, there is mastery in the selection of the score. The dissident chords perfectly show the madness that the sufferers must experience upon the approach of death. 

Nakata’s monster in The Ring is complex.

In true horror fashion, the revelation of the monster in The Ring is kept until the climax. Hideo makes his viewers imagine the image of the monster. Then Hideo elicits remorse, compassion, and profound empathy for the ghoul. We wipe a tear from our eyes as the naïve reporter rocks the emaciated frame of the young girl in her arms. Perhaps, in that instance, we are all naïve. Nakata makes us believe that Reiko and Ryjui have ended the curse by freeing Sadako. And there is comfort. But then he strikes us with a twist.

What would a horror flick be without a twist? 

Nakata slaps viewers in the face. When we least expect it, Ryjui comes face to face with the cursed one. The tension at this moment is phenomenal. But, even then, he holds back the reins. Bit by bit, he exposes the monster. At initial glance, it is nothing more than a girl child, severely tormented, miserable, and haggard. Then Nakata distorts her countenance. He plays with motion to exemplify Sadako’s subhuman nature. With the lens of the camera, Hideo draws the onlooker to her cracked and bloodied fingers. He holds viewers there. He compels them to look deep into her darkened and soulless eyes. Then we see. In Sadako is impenetrable darkness beyond restraint. 

Nakata does a lot with a little in The Ring. He draws out emotion. He uses his filmography skills to form a simplistic character into a harrowing fiend. This film is a masterwork, a refreshing take on classic urban fiction. Hideo heightens a simple plot, creating one of the finest horror films.

Check out the trailer for “The Ring” … if you dare!

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