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The Ring

Revisiting "The Ring" (Original Japanese Version)


After years of keeping this DVD tucked away because the movie scared the heck out of me, I decided to take a 2nd look last night. Now that I've got some objectivity and the trauma has worn off, I was able to analyze why this movie is so effective. It plays on some dark themes and addresses them unflinchingly, as noted below:

1. Yôichi is a latchkey kid: Reiko's young son is often left at home alone to fend for himself because his frazzled reporter mom is never around and really isn't mother material. This is apparent in the first scene with Yôichi where his mom comes home late and he has already dressed himself for Tomoko's funeral and put his mom's clothes out as well. It is also demonstrated when Reiko picks Yôichi up off the floor at his grandpa's and puts him in bed, upon which Yôichi whispers "You're home..." (indicating he often goes to bed with no one home with him )

Reiko's dereliction as a mother is augmented by the fact that lots of spooky shit is going on around them and Yôichi is very much aware of it and needs someone to protect him. Of course, this all comes to a head when Yôichi finds the "death tape" and winds up watching it in the middle of the night (ironically, on the one night his mom is sleeping beside him).

2. Telekinesis, ESP, and witchcraft: These are all things which, like exorcisms, are not so far removed from reality that they seem totally unbelievable. Sadako's mother, Shizuko, predicted a volcano eruption decades earlier. Her professor husband tried to exploit her abilities at a news conference and she became the laughing stock. It was there that Sadako's powers were first revealed, when she killed a reporter that mocked her mother. From there, it all went bad. The father lost his job, the mother committed suicide, and Sadako was eventually thrown down a well by her dad, who was scared of her powers. Of course, her curse lived on through the "death tape."

3. Bad Shit Happens in Broken Homes: The theme of divorce and broken homes is strong. Yôichi parents are divorced and the father indicates that Yôichi was a mistake. Likewise, Sadako's family was splintered and her father kills her after her mother commits suicide.

4. Young People Can Die Too: Tomoko's death in the opening of the movie, while sleeping over her friend's house, is one of the spookiest in the movie. But it is followed by several other teenagers deaths, leading Yôichi to ask his mom: "Can kids die too?" Most of us feel invulnerable in our teens and early 20s. We don't even consider death as an option, unless someone we know passes away. But in "Ringu," young people are the primary victims of Sadako's curse, and that's a little unnerving.

All in all, it's a strong film with a resonance that the American remake just can't muster. The film is about a curse and it kind of feels like a curse watching it - it will get under your skin. I wouldn't quite put it on the level of "The Exorcist," but it's not far from that.

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