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RING

SYNOPSIS:
Journalist Reiko Asakawa (Nanako Matsushima) is investigating the mysterious death of her niece and three friends. There is a rumour. They may have watched a cursed video tape. You watch it, and immediately receive a telephone call predicting you will die in a week. Exactly seven days later, the prophecy is fulfilled. Reiko enlists the help of her ex-husband, Ryuji (Hiroyuki Sanada), a slightly fey mathematics tutor. Together they begin to unravel the mystery of the video, involving a woman with psychic powers, the doctor who studied her abilities, and the fate of her strange daughter.

Video didn’t, after all, kill the radio star. Of course the Radio Star never spied the weird tape at the centre of this under-whelming chiller. I, myself, have picked up the odd video with a jacket proclaiming I’ll die laughing, and I’ve watched a few from which I almost died of boredom, but this particular cassette is of an altogether more sinister nature. Curses have come a long way. Once upon a time you had to excavate a mummy’s tomb; now you pop a video in the entertainment oven and it’s curtains inside a week. Much of the film’s tension, and there is a little, comes from this time-line (or “deadline” as its described at one point—though the lurid pun may merely be a quirk of translation) and the inevitable race against the clock. Measured directing, with a minimum of both melodrama and lighting, creates a certain eeriness, enhanced by fine performances from the para-normally attractive leads. If they are going to die you figure they’ll leave fine looking corpses; except that victims of the curse depart with a convulsion of terror upon their faces, much like the Sherlock Holmes Devils Foot adventure. Although Holmes was far too practical to solve this one: “I fear that if the matter is beyond humanity it is certainly beyond me.” The resolution here is more X-files. Indeed there are a few similarities, right down to the unresolved sexual tension of the protagonists: Asaskuli and Yamamulda. The film is too well made for anyone to die of boredom watching it, not even if it comes out on video. However I found only just enough stylish creepiness to keep me upright in my seat, let alone on the edge of it. The real mystery is how it’s become such a big hit in Japan that it’s spawned a sequel, a prequel and a spin off. Spooky Yamamulda.
Brad Green

While not quite the scariest movie ever made (as some have claimed) this creepy Japanese horror-thriller compares favourably to most recent Hollywood attempts at the genre. Stronger on atmosphere than plot or character, it's an impressive stylistic achievement in a pared-back expressionist mode combining the everyday with the freaky. Apartments and offices are rendered as eerily pristine, shadowy environments filled with high-tech electronic equipment; there are frequent apparently unmotivated tracking shots and high camera angles; ordinary sounds like a ringing phone turn into warnings of doom, while screeching stabs of music are accompanied by what sound like rumblings from demons trapped in a metal cave (the 'realistic' basis of this sound design becomes horrifically clear by the end). Thematically and formally this film is fascinated with communication technologies and their power to distort images and sounds: one of the most disturbing images is a photograph in which all the faces are blurred and twisted, as if the subjects were wearing masks of melting wax. As in The Blair Witch Project (which Ring actually predates) much is made of the ambiguity of fragmentary, low-resolution video images; watching these along with the characters, we can either strain to figure out what is going on, or fantasise about the horrors that lie just outside the limits of our perception. It's as if there were no firm single reality, only a series of mutating appearances - just as the 'urban myth' Reiko originally sets out to investigate is continually changing as it gets passed from one person to another.
Jake Wilson

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1

RING (MA)
(Japan)

CAST: Nanako Matsushima, Hiroyuki Sanada, Miki Nakatani, Yuko Takeuchi, Rikiya Otaka

DIRECTOR: Hideo Nakata, Chisui Takigawa

PRODUCER: Takashige Ichise, Shinya Kawai, Takenori Sento

SCRIPT: Hiroshi Takahashi, (from a novel by Koji Suzuki)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Junichiro Hayashi

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Iwao Saito

MUSIC: Kenji Kawai

RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Potential

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 13, 2001 (Sydney & Melbourne)







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