While there have been many slasher and monster films that shock us with excessive gore, few recent horror films actually create that overwhelming sense of terror that stays with us long after the film has finished. Japanese director Hideo Nakata’s Ring is a rare exception, making it one of the most frightening films since The Shining.
While investigating the sudden death of a group of students, reporter Nanako Matsushima (Reiko Asakawa) discovers a cursed videocassette. Watching the video, she then receives a phone call telling her she will die in exactly a week. After having discovered that this is also how the students had died, Nanako reluctantly enlists the help of her ex-husband to track down the source of the tape.
Rather than resorting to sudden surprises or gruesome effects, Ring slowly builds in tension and dread by not only exploiting our fear of the unknown, but by exploiting the terror of everyday things taking on unfamiliar meanings. The steady camera work, restrained performances, long silences and macabre sound design all combine to generate the nightmarish sensation of an uneasiness that cannot be explained, only experienced.
Refreshingly free of social metaphor or self-parody Ring is proudly content to simply be an incredibly scary film.
Originally appeared in The Big Issue, No. 134, 2001