The late 90s saw a huge inflow of Japanese horror into the North American market, spreading and replicating itself, much like the curse in this wicked and delightful ghost story.
Remade, successfully, three years later as The Ring with Naomi Watts and directed by Gore Verbinski, the original film was one of the first Japanese horror films I was ever introduced to, and still maintains a nice creep factor.
It was great that the 101 Horror Movies brought it my way for another look.
A reporter and single mother, Reiko Asakawa (Nanako Matsushima) is running down what sounds like just another urban legend. There are rumours of a mysterious tape or broadcast late at night that once viewed, results in a phone call advising you that you have one week to live.
When her own niece falls victim to the curse, Reiko begins to look deeper into the stories of frightening images and unexplained deaths. She traces the story to a cabin on Izu peninsula, and its there that she finds an umarked VHS tape, and watches it.
A series of bizarre images later, and the phone rings…
She has seven days to figure out how to save her life.
She turns to her ex-husband and her son’s father Ryuji (Hiroyuki Sanada) for help. It seems both he, and the boy, Yoichi (Rikiya Otaka) happen to have a little of the old shining, which Reiko discovers after her dead niece tells Yoichi to watch the recording as well.
All three of them, having viewed the tape, are in mortal danger, and Reiko believes the only way to save them is to find the story behind the tape. A story about a village woman with unusually powerful ESP abilities, and her even more powerful daughter, who can kill people with a thought.
The story is an enticing blend of ghost story, revenge tale and mystery, and while for me, it doesn’t hold the same punch as it did when I first viewed it, I still think it’s a wonderful example of horror done right.
I’ll say the same thing about the remake as well it was well-made, smart and enjoyable, taking the concepts of the original and twisting them enough to adapt them for North American audiences.
As always, the original film is always the best, this one however, has spawned, prequels, remakes, sequels and apparently even a 12 episode television series (has anyone seen that?), and this one is still top-notch. I’d actually be interested in an updated take on this story using the viral nature of the internet and youtube. There have been rumours for a while that a new film may be coming.
Nakata’s film while containing supernatural and ghostly elements, doesn’t really have any of the expected jump scares, it’s more of a mood piece, although the ghost bits can be extremely frightening. Or of course, may have been before the image of the little girl with the long hair hanging down in front of her face had been so overused and over-exposed that it’s become a bit of a cliché.
Do you before the original or the remake? Which is your favorite of the Japanese horror genre?