It seems a lifetime ago since J-Horror hit it big on a global scale, followed swiftly by all of the English language remakes. But right back at the start of this trend is Hideo Nakata’s original Ringu film.
The premise is simple: There is a cursed video tape out there. If you watch it then you will receive a phone call and you will have 7 days left to live. An investigative reporter catches onto the story and decides to take a look into the matter only to very quickly find themselves cursed. With only 7 days to go they seek to unearth the truth behind the tape before it destroys them.
Tense, moody and with the perpetual feeling of dread, Ringu plays flawlessly even today (despite the fact that our home entertainment technology has leapt on from video some time ago). Modern spin-offs and sequels have tried to update the curse’s method of delivery; but it was more the subtext that mattered. Having said that, it is fun to watch a film where people have these giant square TV sets with the huge backs on them.
Hiroyuki Sanada in a key supporting role stands out (this was about 5 years prior to him becoming a reliable and welcome supporting actor across various English language genre films and he’s still kicking it today in the likes of Bullet Train and John Wick 4).
J-Horror as it came to be called became a trend for a reason – It, initially, treated horror seriously and wanted to scare people. It also wanted to have commentary on our lives. American studios saw how popular this was becoming and then decided to buy and replicate the properties into English. Original and foreign properties would swarm the market for over a decade before it started to die down thanks to the over saturation, fading quality in storytelling, poor budgets and eventual loss of interest.
It is interesting to go back and see how a film that was part of the beginning of a craze has dated by itself. And despite the giant television sets and video tapes, Ringu has dated just fine.
This is a new 4K restoration from the original camera negative by Arrow Films and the picture is flawless. The 4K UHD Blu-ray presentation is in Dolby Vision (HDR10 compatible). The audio comes in lossless Japanese DTS-HD master audio 5.1 and PCM 2.0 soundtracks. There are also optional English subtitles.
There’s a decent amount of extra here commentating on the history, lore and impact of the film and the series it created.
An audio commentary by film historian David Kalat who wrote the book on J-Horror (So naturally a good commentator to get for the film).
The Ringu Legacy – is a half hour piece with various artists talking about the impact of the series on them.
There is a 20-minute interview with author and critic Kat Ellinger on the career of Hideo Nakata. Ellinger highlights how horror had become stale in the late 90s and that the arrival of this kind of film helped to rejuvenate a serious interest in serious horror that is actually scary.
If you are interested in the film series alone then don’t miss out of the video essay by Alexandra Heller – Circumnavigating Ringu. Whether you are familiar with the series or not this makes for a fascinating watch as it charts the films made and the focus of the content of each. Spooks, Sighs and Videotape is a 37-minute video essay by critic Jasper Sharp on the J-horror phenomenon. Sharps tells the origins from literature to the adaptations in film in Japan as well as abroad.
Also included are Sadako’s video (wouldn’t be the same without it!) and theatrical trailers.
There is a fair amount of input here on the extras from Nucleus films – known for the excellent Leviathan documentaries charting the making of the original Hellraiser films. Here it’s mainly video essay work, but the material is knowledgeable and entertaining.
As for the hard copy materials. There is limited edition packaging featuring two artwork options. A double-sided fold-out poster featuring two artwork option and an illustrated collector’s booklet featuring writing on the film by Violet Lucca and Alexandra Heller-Nicholas.