“The media haven’t changed much in 40 years.”
Okay, so this one is light on quotable lines. Instead, Hideo Nakata’s Ring is a horror film primarily concerned with imagery and atmosphere. The latter plays such an important role that most of the movie comes across as more of a mystery thriller than the psychological horror it claims to be. But make no mistake – Ring is not heralded as one of the most important recent horror films for nothing, and that scene towards the end has deservedly become one of the most iconic images in the history of the genre.
It’s fitting perhaps, that only a couple of days ago I referenced Train Pulling into a Station (1895) and how audiences were fooled then into thinking a train was actually going to come out of the screen towards them. Part of the horror of Ring is that kind of thing actually does happen here. The film’s antagonistic spirit, Sadako, uses a video tape as her means to spread a ‘curse’ that gives its victims a week’s warning before she literally crawls out of their television screens to collect the debt.
A main component in Ring’s success was in how it mixed older elements of Japanese folklore, that being the restless ‘yurei’ spirit of Sadako, with the modern technology of TV and videotapes. Such a juxtaposition sounds simple, but in this case it proved quite potent, bringing with it underlying themes such as the collision between Japanese cultural traditions and modernity. It represented a true evolution for the genre – in Japanese terms at least.
In time, the effects would seep into American cinema as well; many Western audiences, including myself, were first introduced to the film via its 2002 Hollywood remake, The Ring. As recently as It Follows (2015), we can see that Ring’s unconventional legacy continues to be passed on, ultimately inspiring its viewers to do more than just ‘make a copy’.