Ringu (1998)

(On DVD, October 2016) I am surprised. While I’ve had a high opinion of the well-executed American version of The Ring ever seeing it in theatres (in retrospect, it’s one of the best horror movies of the early naughties, effectively embracing dread rather than gore as its modus operandi), I expected the original Japanese version to be equally effective, if not more so. Isn’t it always like that when comparing American remakes to their original? But as Ringu unfolded, I found myself in the curious position of preferring the US version. Not that the original is bad. But it is slow, and its Japanese origins do place a barrier between viewers and story that is not as perceptible in the Americanized version. The US version isn’t just slicker: it’s more effective. It knows that it’s a horror film, and it doesn’t shy away from maintaining a tension-filled atmosphere throughout the entire film. Ringu, on the other hand, can often be mistaken for a thriller or even a drama. Despite following more or less the same structure, it doesn’t hit peak dread until very late in the film and while the iconic scene that caps it off remains effective, its impact has been blunted by its equally effective recreation in the American remake. As much as I’d like to pull my snobbish film-critic credentials and dismiss the remake in order to praise the original, my sympathies are clear: I’ll take the American version as the definitive version of the story. I guess once won’t become a habit.

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