Starring: Nanako Matsushima, Miki Nakatani, Yûko Takeuchi
Director: Hideo Nakata
Running Time: 96 mins
Ringu is a Japanese film about an investigative reporter who finds herself following clues surrounding a mysterious video tape that, allegedly when watched, leaves its viewers with just one week to live.
Although this isn’t the most chilling and terrifying horror movie of all time, there’s something about Ringu that makes it an absolute masterclass in creepy and unsettling tension. Featuring a dramatic and gripping mystery throughout that makes this so much more than a bog-standard horror, Ringu is hugely compelling from start to finish, with great performances, direction and a couple of truly terrifying moments.
However, the main thing that you have to know before going into this film is that it’s not really a horror movie. No guts are spilled, and no limbs are cut off, but the psychological trauma that this film provokes at moments is absolutely amazing, giving rise to extreme tension as the central mystery continues to build throughout.
This film’s structure is the key to why it’s so good. With all the right elements, many psychological horrors fail to pull off a truly compelling story, often emphasising scares over genuine intrigue and eeriness. That’s not the case with Ringu, however, as it always prioritises the developing mystery that our main characters are investigating.
For the most part, this is quite a slow-paced film, but the clearly deliberately dragging pace of the story makes the tension at times almost unbearable. As the protagonists find themselves deeper and deeper entangled in this terrifying mystery, the threat that you feel they face becomes all the more terrifying, and that theme continues to build and build both up to a few explosive moments throughout, but particularly an exhilarating climax.
I want to talk about how well director Hideo Nakata handles those scenes, because they really stand out in the memory from this film. Unfortunately, it’s a little difficult to fully describe them without heavy spoilers, but suffice to say that he uses everything possible to make those scenes as uncomfortable and scary as possible. From the gloomy setting to the piercing score, the abstract nature of the video tape in question and the terror on the faces of our lead characters, Nakata hugely impresses at making some truly memorable horror sequences, making this film all the more intense an experience as a whole.
Finally, the performances. The stand-out here is the lead, Nanako Matsushima, who gives a brilliant performance as a journalist torn so dramatically between desperation to get to the bottom of this mystery and staying and caring for her own family. The film’s emotional power isn’t always as strong as it could be, but there are moments here where Matsushima in particular really turns up to provide some heart-wrenching acting,
Overall, Ringu is a fantastic film. It’s not a gratuitously gory horror, but a psychological mystery thriller that provides massive intrigue alongside unbearable tension building throughout. With excellent direction and performances, this film will scare you at times, but most of all have you biting your nails from beginning to end, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.8.