Halloween-O-Meter: The Rings
Halloween-O-Meter: Ringu (1998) vs The Ring (2002)
Released in 1998 to a surprisingly quiet limited reception, the now iconic Ringu follows a reporter investigating a VHS tape that is rumored to be the cause of death for several teenagers of a local high school. You watch the tape and seven days later… you die. The Gore Verbinski remake from 2002 follows the same story, but adapted for American audiences. Unlike the original, this version of The Ring scores almost $250 million at the worldwide box office on a $50 million budget. (Although considering the original film’s budget of $1.2 million, that’s expensive.)
Today we are talking Blobs and Rings! So if Japanese horror isn’t your thing, hop on over to the our other review as we pit the sci-fi cult-classic The Blob against its remake!
Now both films are based on the same novel by Kôji Suzuki, and I have not read that novel. That said, knowing full well that both critics and audiences seem to like the original film better (despite significantly fewer having seen it), I quite like the remake! Granted I really liked the original, so this might be a tough comparison… That said I know for sure that one of these scores higher on our Halloween-O-Meter than the other!
The original Ringu suffers from a budget that is dwarfed by Verbinski’s remake. This means the production design, effects, and even music are all limited. However the original film is undermined the most by the third act, which is not ends abruptly, but is explored much more in the remake. Horror movies don’t always need depth, but in this case, I think the original is left behind by the remake a little.
The remake however gets to the point where a few things don’t make sense. This happens when you add to an already strong course material. (Granted haven’t read the book!) Anyway, the remake- while arguably the scarier film- also goes out of its way to craft terrifying sequences. Most of them work, but every once in a while it feels like the movie is just wasting time. The original is about twenty minutes shorter, and the pacing is a bit smoother since it gets straight to the point. (Oh also both films lack a strong character arc, but that’s not a one-over-the-other thing.)
The Good: Okay I’ll be honest, finding faults in two either good movies isn’t too easy. Despite not having a very prevalent character arc, the performances from leads Nanako Matsushima and Naomi Watts are solid! Both offer a drive to the character that keeps these films going, as the reporters begin to face the time pressure that they themselves were investigating. That said, Hiroyuki Sanada is significantly better than Martin Henderson as Reiko/Rachel’s ex-husband. He is not only a more layered character, but his charismatic performance goes a long way.
Even considering the budgets, Ringu is a good looking movie! The cinematography and music are both atmospheric and creepy. The Ring obviously has more of a chance to build on these, with Hans Zimmer’s score being a clear standout over Kenji Kawai’s. (That said I have mad respect for Kawai’s music. I mean, 1995’s Ghost in the Shell? Gosh such a good score.) Anyway while both films also feature solid editing, the remake takes the original’s use of jump-cuts and, well, uses is more.
This leads me to my biggest difference in the two films: The Ring is much scarier than Ringu. Once you get past the unnecessarily dim contrast, the collective elements of the eerie cinematography and score keep you on your toes. Granted Ringu creeped me out quite a bit- more in fact! But as much as I admire the subtle scares in the original, I never jumped. The Ring employs a variety of horror elements when it comes to scares, and almost every single one works!
These movies are pretty close for me. I want to give the original more credit for- well being an original. And it does deserve a ton of credit! It features strong characters and performances, it’s creepy, and it tackles the story very well! But it is a bit more limited by its budget than the remake, which expands the story more, and in turn, is significantly scarier. Both are really good, and both are totally watching, but I think the remake edges out the original here. Ringu – 7/10. The Ring – 8/10.
Now you’d think the scarier film would win here, right? Well, The Ring is a popular movie, so you’ve probably already seen it. And let’s be honest, there’s nothing quite like Japanese horror film! It established the iconic story and look of the character first, and it’s still pretty darn creepy! Look this may be coming from a film snob, but if I were going to show people one of these movies for Halloween, I’d pick the original! (Which is what we did to prompt this review actually.) To be fair I’d give The Ring 3 out of Haunted VHS tapes, but I think I’d give Ringu 4 out of 10 Haunted VHS tapes!
So The Ring films? Have you seen either of them? How about both? What do you think and which do you prefer? Be sure to leave a like or a comment below and let us know! And if you liked this review and you want to read more, be sure to leave a like or a comment below letting us know what else we should rank on our Halloween-O-Meter! And be sure to check out our other circular review The Blob vs The Blob!
-review by Ryan Prince