The 1998 film that started The Ring mania may have been a trendsetter upon release, but it totally pales in comparison to the Hollywood remake. That’s right. I said it. It lacks the levels of suspense, horror—and videotape. The video in Ringu is SO short and not all that creepy. 2002’s U.S. remake totally exploits the video itself, making you hesitant to watch it in full. It is its own little horror movie and urban legend, right up there with saying Bloody Mary in a mirror 3 times. Plus, there are the HEINOUS faces that are left on the victims in The Ring (that is some serious horror) as compared to the wide-eyed, open-mouthed expression on those in Ringu (yawn).
Otherwise, the two movies are very similar and follow pretty much the same plot. The most notable difference is that in Ringu, the little boy’s father is psychic, while the hottie daddy in The Ring is just an ordinary everyday stud. In Ringu, there’s a backstory of Sadako’s (the Asian Samara) mother being a psychic (the whole Japanese series is heavy on characters with psychic powers). There’s also an “evil” doctor who was working with the psychic mother, and suggestions that maybe HE was actually Sadako’s biological father.
Also, in Ringu, the phone only rings to let you know you have seven days to live IF you are in the cabin that is built over the well. Oh. And the little boy in Ringu actually calls his mother mom instead of the Japanese equivalent of Rachel…. The Ring adds new elements on top of the longer video tape, including the whole horse story, the burning tree, and water actually coming from the television when Samara crawls out of it. Plus, the expanded elements of the videotape begin to materialize in the real world. Awesome.
On top of all that, The Ring totally fucks with your mind by throwing in occasional, nearly subliminal flickers of the ring between film reels. Double awesome.
This 1998 film was the original sequel to Ringu, filmed simultaneously with it, and apparently a total bomb in Japan. Honestly, I actually thought it was better than Ringu 2. The two can’t coexist because the plots are totally different and center around several of the same characters.
In this one, it turns out the boy’s father from the first film drags his old friend from med school into the horror. This new scientist guy sees the tape, which once again plays a major role in the plot. He also hooks up with the assistant chick from the first film. And you’re not going to believe it. It turns out SHE has psychic powers.
Meanwhile, another scientist is trying to find a logical explanation for all the deaths, and believes it’s a virus. But no one can hold on to science forever when Sadako is around. Eventually, the scientists are convinced Sadako can transmit her evil through pretty much anything, including writings in a journal or sex. Okay, that’s when this film starts to suck.
Sadako’s ultimate goal is to be reborn and pretty much force the entire world to see her amazing (but not as good as the one in The Ring) video or read the awesome novel that is going to be released about her. And one of the main characters from the first Ringu is in on her evil plot to destroy the world! WTF?
This 1999 sequel to Ringu is actually the second sequel, filmed after the original sequel Rasen was a disappointment to fans. Interestingly, several elements from this film were actually borrowed and included in The Ring. Most notable is a visit to the girl from the opening scene (of both The Ring and Ringu), who witnessed her friend die, and is now in a crazy house and has to walk behind a screen so she won’t have to look at the television as she passes it.
But where as The Ring Two continues the story of the lead female character, in Ringu 2, the main chick and her son have disappeared, and the assistant (and girlfriend) to the boy’s father takes the lead role (so she gets to be in BOTH sequels!). Sure, this movie has some creepy moments, but I thought it was horrible. There’s this whole plot about the doctor in the crazy house trying to transfer the evil Sadako energy out of the chick who watched her friend die and back onto a video tape, and then wanting to absorb Sadako’s energy into a luxury pool. WTF? Meanwhile, the assistant chick finds the little boy, who can now read minds and throw shit around like Carrie, and Sadako’s “supposed” father is trying to drown her evil spirit in the ocean because her mother apparently spat her out in a cave by the water where women go to expel their unwanted children and let them get washed out to sea.
Things end up back in the well, which seems to be the only part that was borrowed for the U.S. sequel. Only, in Ringu 2, the boy’s father is down in the well and wants to absorb the boy’s fear so he can live happily ever after, free of Sadako’s wrath.
The Ring Two
The 2005 Hollywood sequel pretty much sucks the life out of the original Hollywood remake, but when all is said and done, rather than trying too hard to expand on the “legend” of Samara/Sadako and just making a mess of it, it just says, “So the little girl in the white dress with hair in front of her face as she crawls out of a well scared the shit out of you? Then good. We’ll just shove her in your face for over 2 hours.” That’s why this is the most watchable of the crappy sequels. It dumbs down everything for you and just goes for the cheap scares.
The opening is probably the best part, as you witness a kid who watched the video and only has minutes left to live tries to nonchalantly get his girlfriend to watch it so that he won’t die. Oh come on. You KNOW you’d be doing the same shit.
After that, we get 2 hours of Rachel trying to figure out how to save her already creepy son from the evil of Samara, who it appears is now possessing him. She’s everywhere. There’s water everywhere. There’s no need for a videotape. Suddenly, Rachel is suspected of being a danger to her boy in the hospital. It’s all very Wes Craven’s New Nightmare.
Then we get the horrible backstory of Samara. She was adopted and her real mother is…Carrie! Yep. Sissy Spacek, who is now locked up in a crazy house. And this time, Samara doesn’t come out of the TV…Rachel goes INTO the TV after her! She lands in the well, and we get an adaptation of the final well scene in Ringu 2, with Samara being a major contortionist now who can crawl up the side walls of the well like a spider. Don’t you just love creepy-stupid scenes in horror films?
Ringu 0: Birthday
Finally, we have the prequel. And, as is almost always the case, it doesn’t stand a chance. I mean, Episodes I-III were a bit of a letdown because we knew Anakin was going to become Darth Vader. Same case here. Oh yeah. That bitch? Yeah, she’s going to get knocked into a well, climb her way out of it, crawl out of your television, and bring the stock of ProActive up mighty fast….
Actually, I wish the 2000 film Ringu 0 was that simple. This film makes a complete mess of Sadako’s past. It jumps around in time for starters, so I don’t know what the hell year we’re in. And then, we actually meet the REAL Sadako before she became well food. She’s in this crazy hospital (I think), and she joins this theater group. And she’s basically a grown woman. I guess she’s supposed to be a teenager, but she starts to have an affair with the director of the play. The lead actress sees a Sadako-like chick walking around, she dies with boring Ringu face, and Sadako gets the lead!
Everyone in the cast thinks Sadako is bad news, and as people start to die off, they’re sure she’s doing it. People are dreaming about the well, there’s tape with weird noises on it, Sadako says someone has been following her since she’s a child but she can’t remember who it is, Sadako heals a man by touching him, and the cast of the show eventually revolts against her and knocks the bitch out.
They drag her to this house in which lives the evil doctor who worked with her mother’s ESP (adoptive mother? I have no fricking idea at this point). There are supposedly 2 Sadako’s because her personality split and the evil doctor stunted one’s growth with drugs. The cast of the play is killed one by one (like, literally, in a line in the forest, like dominos), the doctor claims he’s Sadako’s real father, she seems to think he isn’t, the house and the scary things that go on in it appear to have been the inspiration for the film Ju-On (aka: The Grudge), and Sadako ends up, where else? The well. And I have no idea who her real father is.
So I can definitely say that 2 great things came out of the Ringu series. First, the re’s the amazing and far superior U.S. movie The Ring. Second, we got the Fatal Frame survival horror video game series, which clearly steals all the most frightening imagery from the Ringu movies to make one terrifying gaming experience.