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:: Ring

A new horror takes a look beyond the shock of blood found in slasher films. The psychological horror relies on inferred tension created by familiarity with the horror genre, but is a little cleaner. This kind of scare involves an unknown force using the media and other communication devices to scare and kill teenagers. Phone death threats, broadcasts from pirate television stations, and a dubbed cursed video surround a number of deaths in Japan. Female television reporter Reiko with the help of ex partner psychic and university teacher investigate the story and find their lives at risk as they get closer to the story deadline. It is a building of the unknown evil force and the use of the video-television-phone-scare that made Ring individual. The marketable success in Japan and Asia along with that of a sequel, prequel and spin-offs, has proven Ring to be released in Australia, four years later.

The market for international films is an appreciation of its difference from Hollywood. What’s refreshing is an Asian cast and a new filmmaker. The film is not without reliance on the genre exploited in American cinema. Talk of urban legend in the introduction, leads to a reality of the closeness of the myth. Reliance on the scope of format allows confidence that the female heroine is saved. Similarly we are led to believe that through this story the ex partners Reiko and Ryuji will reunite to form a family again.

Sadaka the evil female character is different from the male attackers of other movies. A beautiful long mane of hair hides a pale face and whited eyes, not revealed until the end. Her fingernails are short and malformed, perhaps a result of trying to escape death. A victim of child abuse Sadaka’s death was revenged with many innocent victims. Her demonic powers have existed since birth, a story that will be illustrated in the prequel. Displayed initially in protection of her mother her power is suggested to be like Stephen King’s Carrie. Her haunting is followed shortly after the viewing of the cursed video. Unlike human murderers, there is no chase. It is a short death, a week after her phone threat. Sadaka reveals herself to the victims and they die from terror, with the same scared facial expressions. Similar to the Munch image used by Scream murderers, the death freeze found on the victims is part of the mystery.

The curse video is new. Combining images of a woman grooming herself in the mirror, with blurred shots of people crawling, a pointing disciplinarian and traditional text, the scare is surrealist. The video image is poor and only recognisable with slow frame viewing, available at Reiko’s television station. The mix of images illustrates a return to ancient mythology, realistic because of the fantasy of the unknown.

Reiko is a highlight. Her work as a journalist drives her to work late often. She is superior and has a cameraman and assistant, whom she assigns research. She is separated from her husband and has a young son. As a single mum, she is not bound to her home. Commitments to her son may be broken by a phonecall. She provides meals, once cooking in the morning for an overtime night. Her approach to her work is something not liked by ex-partner Ryuji, and when in death countdown he urges her to spend time with their son, although he does not. While her son may have been lonely, missing the support of female cousin Tomiko he is mature and disciplined for an eight year old, and even sets his mothers clothes out for her.

Ring is new in Japanese horror. It feels graduate new, the kind that wants to change genre by opposing our reactions to the plot. A double beat end and open storyline allowed for the sequel to follow as a package. Taken from a successful novel by Koji Suzuki.

Ring screens at the Lumiere and Classic Cinemas, with Ring 2 to follow in November.