The 1998 film that started The Ring mania may have been a trendsetter upon release, but it totally pales in comparison to the Hollywood remake. That’s right. I said it. It lacks the levels of suspense, horror—and videotape. The video in Ringu is SO short and not all that creepy. 2002’s U.S. remake totally exploits the video itself, making you hesitant to watch it in full. It is its own little horror movie and urban legend, right up there with saying Bloody Mary in a mirror 3 times. Plus, there are the HEINOUS faces that are left on the victims in The Ring.
That is some serious horror as compared to the wide-eyed, open-mouthed expression on those in Ringu (yawn).
Otherwise, the two movies are very similar and follow pretty much the same plot. The most notable difference is that in Ringu the little boy’s father is psychic, while the hottie daddy in The Ring is just an ordinary everyday stud. In Ringu, there’s a backstory of the mother of Sadako (the Asian Samara) being a psychic (the whole Japanese series is heavy on characters with psychic powers). There’s also an “evil” doctor who was working with the psychic mother, and suggestions that maybe he was actually Sadako’s biological father.
Also, in Ringu, the phone only rings to let you know you have seven days to live if you are in the cabin that is built over the well, and the little boy in Ringu actually calls his mother mom instead of by her first name as in The Ring. The Ring adds new elements on top of the longer videotape, including the whole horse story, the burning tree, and water actually coming from the television when Samara crawls out of it. Plus, the expanded elements of the videotape begin to materialize in the real world. Awesome.
On top of all that, The Ring totally fucks with your mind by throwing in occasional, nearly subliminal flickers of the ring between film reels. Double awesome.
Now let’s get into all the sequels. But first a look at the other adaptation of the original story you may not even know existed, which caught me off guard with a major change in the backstory….
The Ring Virus
Upon learning there was a new Sadako movie from 2019 that I hadn’t seen (covered way down below), I did some more research to make sure I hadn’t missed any other Ring movies along the way, only to discover the original Ring story had been made in Korea a year after Ringu came out. So, I picked up a copy and am inserting my thoughts on the film into my always growing Ringu post.
This film mostly follows the general framework of Ringu and the American The Ring remake, however I didn’t find it very frightening, suspenseful, or atmospheric. It actually feels like a cheap knock-off to me.
And it sure doesn’t give us the terrifying “Ring-face” victims suffer in the American version. That was one instance in which the U.S. remake of an Asian horror film vastly improved on the original, but this version did not, with the frozen terrified faces being just as unimpressive as they were in Ringu. And the video? YAWN. The footage isn’t vaguely eerie, and it’s intermingled with generic footage that looks like someone taped over old TV shows they recorded years before. Not to mention, this tape actually talks to the viewer! Ugh.
Despite my disappointment with the horror on hand, there’s a crucial element here that supposedly makes this version much closer to the original novel, and it totally blew my mind. There is a total fricking queer bent to the “Sadako” character! WTF? Her name is not Sadako here and she is not a child. Brace yourself…
She is an adult woman named Park Eun-Suh; she worked at a night club and it turns out she was intersex! In an early scene, the main reporter character is chatting with an artist at a gallery about bisexuality and gender identity. I was confused as to why the exchange was so prominently included in a Ring movie.
I didn’t find out why until way near the end of the film. It turns out Park Eun-Suh was having a relationship with her half-brother, and when he discovered she had both male and female parts, he became “terrified” (as he describes it), killed her, and threw her down a well. Wow. This film should actually have a voice at the queer horror discussion table, and yet I’ve never heard it mentioned at all.
Once the truth comes out, the characters even discuss how Park Eun-Suh would have been considered perfect in ancient times because she was the best of both worlds, but in modern society she was a victim of ridicule and just wanted to be “normal” and have kids and raise a family. It all sounds so queerphobic, but there’s an interesting turn right at the end that spits in the face of just how “normal” straight people and family life are, and it concerns who the main reporter character decides to pass the curse on to.
Of course I can’t ignore the most crucial part of a Ring movie—the escape from the well from hell. When Park Eun-Suh finally crawls from the well on the television near the end of the film, it at first looks similar to the footage in the other Ring movies. However, I’m not sure if it’s the way they shot the scene or if they used a smaller old school tube television, but when she crawls out she looks ridiculously large. She also does not have scary face—she’s rather pretty with wonderful skin. Of course she is. She’s queer!
This 1998 film was the original sequel to Ringu, filmed simultaneously with it, and apparently a total bomb in Japan. Honestly, I actually thought it was better than Ringu 2. The two can’t coexist because the plots are totally different and center around several of the same characters.
In this one, it turns out the boy’s father from the first film drags his old friend from med school into the horror. This new scientist guy sees the tape, which once again plays a major role in the plot. He also hooks up with the assistant chick from the first film. And you’re not going to believe it. It turns out SHE has psychic powers.
Meanwhile, another scientist is trying to find a logical explanation for all the deaths, and believes it’s a virus. But no one can hold on to science forever when Sadako is around. Eventually, the scientists are convinced Sadako can transmit her evil through pretty much anything, including writings in a journal or sex. A Sadako STD? Okay, that’s when this film starts to suck.
Sadako’s ultimate goal is to be reborn and pretty much force the entire world to see her amazing video (still not as good as the one in The Ring) or read the awesome novel that is going to be released about her. And one of the main characters from the first Ringu is in on her evil plot to destroy the world! WTF?
This 1999 sequel to Ringu is actually the second sequel, filmed after the original sequel Rasen was a disappointment to fans. Interestingly, several elements from this film were actually borrowed and included in U.S. version of The Ring. Most notable is a visit to the girl from the opening scene (of both The Ring and Ringu), who witnessed her friend die, and is now in a crazy house and has to walk behind a screen so she won’t have to look at the television as she passes it.
But where as The Ring Two continues the story of the lead female character, in Ringu 2 the main chick and her son have disappeared, and the assistant (and girlfriend) to the boy’s father takes the lead role (so she gets to be in BOTH sequels!). Sure, this movie has some creepy moments, but I thought it was horrible. There’s this whole plot about the doctor in the crazy house trying to transfer the evil Sadako energy out of the chick who watched her friend die and back onto a videotape, and then wanting to absorb Sadako’s energy into a luxury pool. WTF? Meanwhile, the assistant chick finds the little boy, who can now read minds and throw shit around like Carrie, and Sadako’s “supposed” father is trying to drown her evil spirit in the ocean because her mother apparently spat her out in a cave by the water where women go to expel their unwanted children and let them get washed out to sea.
Things end up back in the well, which seems to be the only part that was borrowed for the U.S. sequel. Only, in Ringu 2, the boy’s father is down in the well and wants to absorb the boy’s fear so he can live happily ever after, free of Sadako’s wrath.
The Ring Two
The 2005 Hollywood sequel pretty much sucks the life out of the original Hollywood remake, but when all is said and done, rather than trying too hard to messily expand on the “legend” of Samara/Sadako, it just says, “So the little girl in the white dress with hair in front of her face as she crawls out of a well scared the shit out of you? Then good. We’ll just shove her in your face for over 2 hours.” That’s why this is the most watchable of the crappy sequels. It dumbs down everything for you and simply goes for the cheap scares.
The opening is probably the best part, as you witness a kid who watched the video and only has minutes left to live tries to nonchalantly get his girlfriend to watch it so that he won’t die. Admit it. You KNOW you’d be doing the same shit.
After that, we get 2 hours of Rachel trying to figure out how to save her already creepy son from the evil of Samara, who it appears is now possessing him. She’s everywhere. There’s water everywhere. There’s no need for a videotape. Suddenly, Rachel is suspected of being a danger to her boy in the hospital. It’s all very Wes Craven’s New Nightmare.
Then we get the horrible backstory of Samara. She was adopted and her real mother is…Carrie! Yep. Sissy Spacek, who is now locked up in a crazy house. And this time, Samara doesn’t come out of the TV…Rachel goes into the TV after her! She lands in the well, and we get an adaptation of the final well scene in Ringu 2, with Samara being a major contortionist now who can crawl up the side walls of the well like a spider. Don’t you just love creepy-stupid scenes in horror films?
Ringu 0: Birthday
Finally, we have the Asian prequel. And, as is almost always the case, it doesn’t stand a chance. I mean, Episodes I-III were a bit of a letdown because we knew Anakin was going to become Darth Vader. Same case here. Oh yeah. That Sadako bitch? Yeah, she’s going to get knocked into a well, climb her way out of it, crawl out of your television, and bring the stock of ProActive up mighty fast….
Actually, I wish the 2000 film Ringu 0 was that simple. This film makes a complete mess of Sadako’s past. It jumps around in time for starters, so I don’t know what the hell year we’re in. And then, we actually meet the REAL Sadako before she became well food. She’s in this crazy hospital (I think), and she joins this theater group. And she’s basically a grown woman. I guess she’s supposed to be a teenager, but she starts to have an affair with the director of the play. The lead actress sees a Sadako-like girl walking around, she dies with boring Ringu face, and Sadako gets the lead!
Everyone in the cast thinks Sadako is bad news, and as people start to die off, they’re sure she’s doing it. People are dreaming about the well, there’s tape with weird noises on it, Sadako says someone has been following her since she’s a child but she can’t remember who it is, Sadako heals a man by touching him, and the cast of the show eventually revolts against her and knocks the bitch out.
They drag her to this house in which lives the evil doctor who worked with her mother’s ESP (adoptive mother? I have no fricking idea at this point). There are supposedly 2 Sadako’s because her personality split and the evil doctor stunted one’s growth with drugs. The cast of the play is killed one by one (like, literally, in a line in the forest, like dominos), the doctor claims he’s Sadako’s real father, she seems to think he isn’t, the house and the scary things that go on in it appear to have been the inspiration for the film Ju-On (aka: The Grudge), and Sadako ends up, where else? The well. And I have no idea who her real father is.
So I can definitely say that 2 great things came out of the Ringu series. First, there’s the amazing and far superior U.S. movie The Ring. Second, we got the Fatal Frame survival horror video game series, which clearly steals all the most frightening imagery from the Ringu movies to make one terrifying gaming experience.
Almost 15 years after the original Ringu, the franchise—and Sadako—are still alive! Sadako 3D is larger than life, literally. I don’t even know where to begin. Even if you’ve never seen any of the other films, all you have to know to watch this one is that Sadako once existed and killed people by crawling from a well in a VHS tape clip onto your television and then out the TV screen. Now, Sadako is taking YouTube by storm! Laptops, iPads, phones—nothing we use is safe.
If you watch this one in 2D without the silly 3D novelty, many of the effects look absurd. Sadako’s hand is constantly reaching out of computer monitors and phones and it looks like the same footage of the arm is used every time. But who cares? Because this installment feels like a thrilling video game. The first half of the film is somewhat serious and creepy (aside from the stupid 3D effects), but once you see a GIANT Sadako crawl out of a video screen on the side of a van and a huge length of hair lassos a dude into it, you know there’s no saving Sadako’s legacy.
But then…it’s back to the well. You know how once in a while the “monsters” in a movie are so absurd yet so cool you can’t help but love it? Well, these CGI Sadako-spider hybrids crawl out of the well and pursue our leading lady in one of the most awesome chase scenes ever. It lasts forever—and dammit, it has a jump scare that totally got me. The Sadako spiders look like the result of someone watching the American Ring 2 and really digging that contortionist leg over arm walk Samara did when she crawled out of the well. It all leads to a boss battle, and our leading lady has special powers and Ninja moves—it’s awesome. Watch the credits all the way through for the postscripts. This is seriously one of my all-time favorites in the franchise.
After going so far off the deep end and making an amazing monster movie like Sadako, there’s no going back to the bone-chilling mystery of the legendary Sadako. Sadly, Sadako 2 tries.
Sadako has a baby girl! I’m not kidding. Little Nagi is Sadako’s “seed of despair”. Oh brother. Actually, oh daughter.
So a nice chick named Fuko is raising little Nagi (Nagi’s mom died in birth). People begin to die around Nagi when looking at laptops or talking on their phones. Seriously, people just die while talking on their phones. Even a whole fucking train car of people is attacked at one point.
Meanwhile, people possessed by Sadako are terrorizing Fuko in her constant CGI demon daydreams. The best part has to be when CGI Sadako daydream demon hair gets caught in a paper shredder, which becomes a deadly weapon when the CGI Sadako daydream demon whips its head around. What the Fuko?
And speaking of hair, Sadako hair is once again exploited mercilessly, as is the whole scary girl leaping out of various electronic orifices trick. Every cheap scare is predictable in this desperate attempt to bring the franchise back to its roots. And like the first film, there’s a whole lot of investigating to try to understand the origins of Sadako’s evil. Yawn. Just give me more Sadako spiders.
SADAKO vs. KAYAKO (2016)
Abbott & Costello met all the Universal monsters. Godzilla took on King Kong. Freddy went at it with Jason. Lake Placid even battled Anaconda! But nothing could prepare us for this….
As Rings hits U.S. theaters, the latest Japanese sequel hits Blu-ray…in a crossover with another infamous, creepy-crawly chick in white with long black hair. It’s Sadako vs. Kayako! More plainly put, it’s The Ring vs. The Grudge!
Ignoring the fact that The Ring was using modern technology to transmit her dirty work in previous film, this one goes back to the videotapes. Two female students buy a dusty old VCR to transfer wedding videos to DVD. Guess what’s in the used VCR….
Meanwhile, another teen girl’s family moves into a new house right next to The Grudge’s house, where the little cat boy still meows his way through the halls, hissing and leaping on anyone who dares to enter…including a group of kids….
This film definitely does a great job of imitating the magic that made the original films so eerie. It also happens to feel like two separate movies for the majority of its running time, with the bulk of the plot centering on The Ring, with the girls trying to stop the curse after watching the tape. Meanwhile, the other girl just walks around feeling uneasy about The Grudge house next door after learning of its tragic history.
Watch out, Kayako! She’s behind you! Watch out, Sadako! She’s in front of you!
Finally, the girls team up with an exorcist who has them play The Ring videotape in The Grudge house. FUCKING AWESOME. The absolute ridiculousness of it all is exactly how this shit needed to play out, with the two long-haired bitches eventually crawling their way back to the well for the final showdown. And with the way things turn out, I wouldn’t be surprised if the next film is simply titled The Gringe.
At this point, I have Ring fatigue. I didn’t even feel like blogging about this one. I barely felt like watching it all the way through.
Not only does Rings rehash everything from the original U.S. The Ring much less effectively and with a total tween horror flick feel for a new generation, but it also borrows generously from the various Asian Ringu sequels to create a whole new asinine branching backstory and future story. On top of that, it drags endlessly (actually, it drags for an hour and 42 minutes, but it feels endless).
The Ring meets Final Destination meets Samara On a Plane for a pointless opening scene in which two people on a commercial flight – Zach Roerig of The Vampire Diaries and Lizzie Brocheré of The Strain – admit they watched the tape and shit is about to go down. Hey, when your seven days are up, they’re up. Good thing for Samara there’s a little screen on the cockpit dashboard.
For fuck’s sake, it’s the 20-teens. Where did two different people in their 30s get VCRs?
Johnny Galecki has absolutely no excuse for appearing in a sequel to The Ring, but here he is. He buys a VCR that has a videotape labeled “WATCH ME” in it, so he watches it. And it ain’t old episodes of Roseanne.
Meanwhile, somewhere else, our main girl is saying goodbye to her hot, shirtless boyfriend as he’s headed off to college. Turns out Galecki is his college professor. Turns out the boyfriend ends up watching the tape. Turns out Galecki has a whole lab of students studying and watching the tape.
The main girl ends up watching the tape to try to help her boyfriend. She becomes linked to Samara, like, mentally. She feels her pain. She’s determined to discover all the shit we already know but tweens that weren’t even born in 2002 don’t, so we have to sit through all that exposition. And finally, she discovers there’s more footage embedded in the video that we’ve never seen before! Who knew videotape was so complex?
The lost footage opens a world of investigation as the main girl and her boyfriend travel to a town to uncover a whole new layer of Samara backstory. No, seriously. The mom, the dad, Samara’s burial place. Forget everything you thought you knew. In other words, this film completely ruins the legend, which allows Vincent D’Onofrio to mimic the crazy dad role Brian Cox played in the first movie as he attempts to stop the main girl from releasing Samara from her true grave.
And just when you think it’s over at last, the U.S. franchise catches up with the Asian franchise. Yes, Samara joins Sadako in the new millennium and connects to the Internet. But with the modem tying up the phone line, she’s falling behind on her “seven days” calls.
Sadako is back, but not in 3D. See, that’s how you distinguish the titles—Sadako 3D as compared to plain old Sadako. Or is it Sadako 2019? Laziest title since Halloween 2018, Scream 2022, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2022. Lazy fucks. Give your franchise cash grab sequels new names at least.
This installment is definitely for diehard fans who just need to see Sadako doing what she’s known for, much like we just keep going back to see Michael Myers do the same old thing. And Ghostface. And Leatherface. And Chucky. And Jason. And Pinhead. And Jigsaw. Damn, we are slaves to franchises for our whole lives.
Anyway, a psychologist gets a new job at a hospital and takes an interest in a young girl admitted after the death of her mother, who kept her locked up and called her Sadako.
It’s no wonder. This little brat is Sadako. Or at least, she’s possessed by her. She wields powers like Carrie, which is just one of way too many elements thrown into this installment, which even tosses in a random scary old man in an elevator to remind us that the movie The Eye was another popular Asian horror film.
The psychologist’s brother is a YouTube urban legend hunter who goes to the apartment where the mother was found dead. After his virile video does its thing, he simply disappears. So his sister studies the video, giving us a brief found footage sequence.
There are some Sadako sightings, there’s one old school crawling attack out of a television, and eventually the psychologist hunts for her brother in a cave by the shore on an island.
That’s because Sadako’s origins story is totally rewritten again. Forget all about that story of the well. The final act of this film is basically a remake of the end of the first film, relocated to a cave. Wait…does that mean this installment is a direct sequel to Ringu 2?
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