Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Regrettable DVD Purchases, Part One: Ringu (1998)

I used to have the bad, lazy habit of buying DVD's of movies I've never seen. (I could have tried renting them first, but no...!) These were all movies that I'd seen praised to the skies in various reviews, of course. The problem was, I usually ended up hating them. Case in point: the Japanese horror film, "Ringu." "Ringu" was released in Japan in 1998, and spawned several sequels as well as a TV series. Hollywood took note and in 2002 released a slick remake: "The Ring." Since I'd liked "The Ring" enough to buy it, and since various internet horror sites claimed "Ringu" was better, I bought "Ringu." Huge mistake. "Ringu" is inferior to "The Ring" in practically every way. The film lacks the chilling atmosphere of "The Ring." The plot is threadbare, owing in part to the sheer brevity of the cursed videotape. The tape in "The Ring" is rich with surreal imagery that recurred in new forms throughout the film and provided only vague clues to the mystery of the little girl. The tape in "Ringu" has only a few images, none of them terribly interesting or scary. Instead of using the tape itself as a resource, the characters in "Ringu" often have vital clues literally pointed out to them by the specter of a man with a cloth over his head. The dude actually points to spots where the characters are meant to look. In "The Ring," the little girl's origins remain somewhat mysterious and there is an inferred supernatural element, but in "Ringu" she is specifically said to have psychic powers. Just like every other character in the film, including the girl's mom and the lead character's ex-boyfriend! (Psychic = boring to me. Sorry.) In "The Ring," the reporter's son is a serious little boy who ends up haunted by the little girl, and yes, the performance is reminiscent of the kid in "The Sixth Sense," but at least both these boys can actually act. (And for that matter, the kid in the "Ring" doesn't have psychic powers -- he only draws pictures of his cousin's death because she told him she was going to die beforehand, and the only "dead person" he sees is the malevolent little girl.) By contrast, the little boy in "Ringu" is a sour-faced, dead-eyed little mannequin who spends the entire film looking like he's crapped his pants and is feeling kind of angry about it. And then there's "Ringu's" set piece. Three words: climactic bailing sequence. The well in "Ringu" is pretty full, which means that the reporter and her ex-boyfriend spend quite a bit of time emptying it with a little bucket. This goes on for what feels like hours. In what passes for a plot complication, the reporter's arms get tired. She starts crying. The ex-boyfriend yells at her. It's just like one of the lamer challenges in "The Amazing Race." ("Bail faster, Mirna!") Needless to say, I felt utterly ripped off by this purchase. Sadly, I'm a bit of a slow learner when it comes to financial matters, so it would take a few more bad purchases like this before I finally learned my lesson. Up next: "Don't Look Now" (1973).

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