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.