Ringu is a hard film to watch, and I mean that literally. I saw The Ring, the American remake, a few months ago. But I couldn’t find Ringu streaming anywhere, ironic since this movie is about a piece of dead technology. I had to go through my library system to find it.

Ringu concerns a cursed videotape that kills you a week after watching it. The video contains a bunch of weird, almost Dadaist imagery, and ends with a shot of a well. Reiko, a reporter, gets her hands on a copy of the videotape and watches it. She knows the story of the curse when she does so. Spooked when she receives the obligatory phone call predicted by the urban legend afterwards, Reiko makes a copy of the videotape and shows it to her ex-husband.

This is something I don’t get about either version of the movie. If you found a cursed videotape that could kill people, why would you show it to anyone, especially if you started believing in the curse? The rest of Ringu is spent running around with Reiko and her ex trying to decipher the curse, which leads to an island, a girl with psychic powers and a well that isn’t empty.

Ringu isn’t scary. Looking back at my review of The Ring, I complained it wasn’t a scary movie. Ringu is even worse. There are almost no jump scares and we don’t see a lot of Sadako, the ghost girl. The climax is great, though. They wrote the subplot about psychic powers out of the remake, with good reason.

Reiko’s relationship with her ex-husband is strangely formal, and she doesn’t seem to feel bad about leaving her child home alone for hours at a time. I am not sure if the filmmakers are trying to make a moral statement, notorious in horror movies, but am guessing my confusion is due to me not understanding a different culture.

The best part of Ringu is the countdown to Reiko’s death. Her psychological journey from skepticism to total belief to existential dread is interesting to watch, but the movie’s plot isn’t dynamic enough to match her personal angst. Translation: not enough happens. I’d call Ringu a near miss. Dark Water, made by the same director, is a much better movie.

Dark Water

Dark Water is a Japanese movie based on the novel written by Koji Suzuki and directed by Hideo Nakata, creators of The Ring. There are two movies titled Dark Water, the original and a remake starring Jennifer Connelly. This is a review of the original movie, which is available on Amazon Prime.

The plot: Yoshimi moves into a creepy apartment complex with her six-year old daughter Ikuko. Soon strange things start happening: a little red book bag that keeps coming back, the spreading stain on the ceiling, glimpses of a little girl dressed in a yellow raincoat. The little girl doesn’t seem to like Ikuko, who is drawn to the water tower on the roof (water is a recurring theme in this movie). How far will Yoshimi go to protect her daughter?

There are a few things left unsaid: Yoshimi is fragile, maybe suicidal. She has no money and is in a nasty custody battle with her ex-husband. There’s no question of the reality of what happens here, but the events that occur in Dark Water mirror Yoshimi’s downward spiral, which is the best type of horror. Yoshimi does some stupid things in this movie, but when your life falls apart that will happen. She’s holding on by tips of her fingernails, so she clings to Ikuko, but she also resents her daughter. It’s no coincidence that the monster of Dark Water is a child who wants love.

Dark Water has lots of good jump scares, but that’s not the point. This movie reminds me of a tragedy in a L.A hotel involving a water tower. There was footage of a girl in an elevator, which I’m not going to link to, because it’s easy enough to find on YouTube. People seem to think the video is spooky and that the woman is talking to ghosts, when what we’re really seeing is a person in the midst of a breakdown.

Highly recommended!