Monday, February 16, 2009

Ring vs Ringu vs The Ring

I love love love a lot of the Asian horror I've been exposed to. Some is utter crap (Split Mouthed Woman, I'm looking at you, you sucky whore!) Most has been great though, and I'm childish enough (I think I'm in a permanent child-ego state) to like what I like, and I feel no desire to explain it to rude assholes who inform me I'm wrong simply because I disagree with their opinions. Then I probably call them a battery of vile names whilst reading a romance novel, or rereading Twilight for the billionth time. So I can like a remake just as much or more than the original, as I hope to intelligently explain in this entry.

I first saw The Ring, I think on the night it opened, with my friend Malinda. That was so much scary fun, I rode the high for the rest of the night. Malinda and I tend to feed off of each other's fears, so seeing a film together is great. (Except when it's Cabin Fever. I will NEVER forgive her for that one.) I still list The Ring as one of my favorite movies, and have the poster on my bedroom wall.

I saw Ringu, the Japanese original, shortly after it became available in the states. I almost bought it sight unseen, but it was 25$ before tax with no special features, so I reluctantly passed on it. After I saw it that first time I was glad-- I hated it. Sadako was the only scary portion of that movie, and compared the Rachael, Reiko was a pale competitor. I did love the sound track for both, though.

Then, after it was finally translated and available in paper back, I bought Ring, the book that spawned it all, written by Koji Suzuki (who is a very, very fascinating man in his own right).

After recently (in the same night) rewatching The Ring and Ringu, I have decided to compare and contrast all three against one another. How fucking scientific of me. Think Sadako/Samara will decompose in a test tube if exposed to high heat? What will leak out if she does?

The Ring was still awesome-- well acted with some really terrifying effects and timing-- for example, the scene at Katie's funeral when he mother, Ruth, tells Rachael that she was the one who found the dead girl, I looked down, smartly expecting a flash scare, and I was right. Too bad it happened after I looked back up, huh? I think I peed a little when I saw that poor huddled, mangled form in the closet. The kicker was Katie's head falling forward-- Yoinks. (Looking that up on youtube just seriously creeped me out). I also love this movie because I live in Washington state and go to Seattle fairly often. While the area of the state I live in looks nothing like the sections in the movie, I still know it very well, and have lived under the west side's notorious rain cloud at other points in my life.

After rewatching it several years later, Ringu is much better than I remembered. I found myself enjoying it, as well as wanting to throttle Reiko for letting her kindergartner be home by himself. I was also not broken up over the death of her ex-husband. In The Ring I got the impression that Noah, Rachael's ex and the father of her son, Aidan, was a maddening charmer. The kind of guy who could probably persuade his way into your pants; it wouldn't be until afterward that you discovered he also drove you crazy. But the rift between Noah and Rachael played more to me like two stubborn personalities clashing, not that he was an asshole; I was genuinely sad when Noah was killed by Samara.

The same cannot be said of Ryuji, Reiko's ex-husband in Ringu. While a lot of his coldness is explained later in the film-- he is painfully psychic we discover, and I get the impression he has suffered for this in the past, I still find him profoundly arrogant, and an asshole, deadbeat dad who has nothing to do with his own son's life, instead opting to fuck the underaged tail made available to him via his teaching job. I winced when he died, but all of the regret I had was for what Reiko would go through, since for some misbegotten reason she saw something commendable in the cockwhore.

Reiko and Rachael are also interesting characters to contemplate-- I like Rachael because she is a strong, independent woman who will bust through any bullshit to get to what she needs. She's also a loving mother to her eccentric son-- very patient with Aiden, and I get the impression that she reads him better than he realizes. She's also mean, which, hey, I can relate to.

Reiko I strongly disliked when I first saw Ringu. I thought she was weak and ineffectual where Rachael was strong, but on a second viewing I see that I am very, very wrong. She's actually very determined, if subtle character. She's never seen in anything but pants (no skirt, dresses, etc. Sorry to get your hopes up, guys) and blazers, and seems to have a fulfilling career while trying to raise her son to the best of her abilities. She also takes on a bulldog like stubbornness where her son, Koichi, is concerned.

You'll notice here that I haven't mentioned the book at all in these comparisons. The reason is because the set up in the book follows the same basic premise-- death of a high school girl prompts investigation, which uncovers the killer tape, but the characters are very different. The main character in Ring is a married man with a very small (I think 3 years old?) daughter. There's also a strange secondary character who is killed by Sadako. He's a friend of the main character, and he may or may not be a rapist, it's never told for sure what the truth it. There is also a subplot pertaining to smallpox, which takes on a larger role than realized initially. The book is very, very good, and I recommend it, highly-- it builds up some seriously upsetting suspense.

Sadako vs Samara vs Sadako is an interesting view, because all three incarnations are very different. Sadako in Ringu is terrifying. You never see her face, her fingers appear to have too many joints, and her eyes roll horribly in what little of her face you see. But her actual presence in Ringu is very small, and I think the movie suffers a little for that. She's a fascinating character, and I'd personally like to have known more about her other than that her father may not have been human, and she can kill with a thought.

Samara is presented in a slightly different light-- she's cast as an increasingly sympathetic character, a small, strange girl suffering not only under the ministrations of her unbalanced mother and her off-putting, abrasive father, but also castigated by an entire community of superstitious, small-minded fishermen. That was a REALLY long sentence. The fact that she's played very well by a talented child actress (Daveigh Chase, who would also voice Lilo in Lilo and Stitch) adds to her pathos. Sure she's creepy, but she's just a kid. Right?


I was strangled with an abrupt horror that had previously been sympathy when Aiden awakes to his mother assuring him that she took the little girl out of the dark place. "You helped her?! Why did you do that? You weren't supposed to do that. Don't you understand, Rachael? She never sleeps." That line makes my scalp crawl every time I watch it.

Sadako in Ringu is a terror, and she's open about it. Samara is just as horrible, but she's sneaky about it-- you've helped her before you learn you should not have.

Sadako in Ring is a whole different entity. For starters, she's gorgeous. And she made it to adulthood, unlike her unfortunate film incarnations. She also has a pretty shocking secret, which I won't spill here, since I don't think as many people have read Ring as have seen the movies. She's very much a tragic figure as well as a horrible one, and the cyclical nature of her curse is why the story is named Ring.

All three forms of this story have lived easily side by side, and I have developed at taste for them all. I haven't had a chance to read Spiral or Loop, the book's two sequels, but I hope to once I get an opportunity. I haven't seen The Ring 2, and from what I've heard that's more blessing than curse. I haven't seen any of the Ringu sequels either, either than Ring 0: Happy Birthday, and that was more weird drama with a little bit of horror at the end. I also have yet to read the Ringu manga that's been out for a bit, but I plan on giving that a look, too.

All in all, this is a fascinating story told in three different ways, and I have come to enjoy all three immensely.

Did you make it to the end of my crushing wall of text? If so, give yourself a big hand-- then take some ibuprofen. You probably have eye strain.


Bevin said...

Cool, I like how you compared all three versions. I also find it interesting that "Ringu" changed the lead character to a single mother-- it's an interesting change to make, and one that I think adds a really interesting angle to the story. And I like what you pointed out about the differences between Sadako and Samara-- in the Japanese version, her presence is felt through the movie, but a lot more subtlely, whereas Samara's was more pronounced throughout the movie. Just interesting what the differences were and why.

Hel said...

Heh, now me, I saw Ringu first, and then after that The Ring, and my first impression was that Ringu was scarier. However, after having seen The Ring several times, I think both movies have their good points. The thing that really sticks with me from Ringu is the well scene and the final shot with the mother calling her father on the phone. I like the "film school" weirdness of the video in The Ring, and the embellishment of the story behind it.

What's funny is that after I saw Ringu the first time I was totally paranoid that I was going to die in seven days!

The book sounds awesome and I definitely want to check it out and find out what all this "ring" business in the title is really about.

Cins said...

I saw both and I like both but honestly? The Ring i enjoyed SO much more. And I think the reason is because I liked Rachel so much as a character. She seemed much stronger than her Japanese counter part. Not to mention her relationship with Noah was so much more real to me. This could be on account of culture though and how Japaense and U.S. women look at relationships.
Never read the book but I know its secret...because I'm one of those filthy whores that look up spoilers all the time. I think I"ll pick it up though since our tastes in books are pretty dang similar.

thebonebreaker said...

I too love all three incarnations of The Ring!
[and just so you know, Spiral & Loop are just as good reads as Ring]

I agree 100% with each of your comparisons ~ great post!

P.S. You should perhaps give Slit Mouthed Woman one more try, as I enjoyed that one as well!

Mel said...

I intensely disliked The Ring. It was my first exposure to the Ring world and my mother and I seriously contemplated walking out halfway through the movie. I did re-watch The Ring again later and you know what really annoyed the hell out of me was that you could hear Samara talking on the phone. In the Japanese version, you're not supposed to hear it. Just the Sadako "noise". It creates more suspense that way and is more interesting. Also, I didn't really think that the US remake's curse video made that much sense.

Considering how much I disliked The Ring, if it wasn't for my love of Japanese culture, I would never have touched the original movie. But I did and I loved it. I found on subsequent re-watchings that there were minute details that I hadn't previously noticed. Ringu was great. Though I thought Asakawa and Takayama in the movies were kind of uninteresting. Sadako was what was interesting.

The Ring 2 (Japanese Version) was only made because the movie adaption of Spiral was so awful. And frankly, Ring 2 was also awful. It wasn't cannon for a start and just wasn't that interested. I blame Mai Takano for that. Her character in the film is just bland and annoying.

As for the US remake of Ring 2, I've filed this away with teh remake of Ju-on (the Grudge) and the like. It's in my "Never to watch" pile, because I know I'll be annoyed by bad acting and crappy plot changes.

Ring 0: Birthday on the other hand, I found a bit sappy. But I found it really interesting. The idea between a split in Sadako creating Sadako A (good Sadako) and Sadako B (bad Sadako). Should the two unite all would be lost. :P

It took some doing to get a hold of the entire Ring series of books. I have read all four now. And I have to say Ring and Spiral are my favourites. Loop is very scientific in a lot of ways, I found that interesting, but it's lack of Sadako to be a little disheartening. Birthday, being the last book int he series kkind of ties things up. It's good, but was a slightly disappointing end for me.

Probably the main thing that kind of put me off about the novel Ring was the character Takayama. Or more, the change in the character kind of shocked me. But I think Takayama was a good balance to the wimpy Asakawa. Without Takayama, Asakawa never would have gotten as far as he did.

Sadako was even more interesting and sinister in the books and that's what I loved about her. I feel that the entire focus of Ring's film adaption to be on the supernatural aspects of Sadako to intensify the suspense, but also take away from the character a bit. I do feel that all of the characters were dumbed down to varying degrees in all of the various film adaptions. Even the Korean one.

If you like Ring, read all of the books, it's the best way to go.

Stac said...

Thanks for the post, Mel! I plan on reading all of the books, I just need to get them into my hot little hands. ;)