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From "Ring" to "Rings": A full recap of the horror movie franchise


Writer: Casey Chong


Oh my! Samara is coming out of flat screen TVs now.

It all began with the 1991 Japanese novel titled "Ring".

Written by Koji Suzuki, the novel about a cursed videotape had since inspired many mediums ranging from movie adaptations to television series.

The most popular incarnation was none other than Hideo Nakata's "Ring" (or better known as "Ringu" in Japan), the first big screen adaptation released in 1998 that scared audiences silly and gave new meaning to the 'white noise' of our television screens.

The huge success of that movie subsequently paved the way for more sequels, a prequel, a Korean remake, spin-offs and the inevitable American remakes.

Following the American versions which were seen in 2002 and 2005, another Hollywood film has now been released on the big screen. In an obvious attempt to revitalise the once-popular horror property to a new generation of moviegoers, we look back at all the previous adaptations to justify why the "Ring" franchise is really very scary and worthy of more movies to come.

1. "Ring" a.k.a. "Ringu" (1998)

A scene from "Ring".

"Ring: Kanzenban" may have been the first film version made in 1995, but it was actually more of a TV movie. Then came the real deal three years later: Hideo Nakata's big screen version of the "Ring". A big hit in Japan, the movie revolves around Reiko Asakawa (Nanako Matsushima), a TV reporter investigating the mysterious death of her niece Tomoko (Yuko Takeuchi) after watching a cursed videotape. Her investigation leads her to a shocking discovery that the tape has to do with a deceased person named Sadako Yamamura (Rie Ino), a now vengeful female spirit who possesses a supernatural power to curse whoever that watches the tape to die in seven days. In order to break the curse, the tape must be copied and passed on to someone else. "Ring" is of course, famous for its iconic scene where the ghost of Sadako is seen climbing out of a well and subsequently crawls out of the television set. Thanks to the movie's huge success, it ignited the J-horror movie craze and made Hideo Nakata a household name in Japan.

2. "Rasen" (1998)

A scene from "Rasen".

Released simultaneously in Japan at the same time, "Rasen" is an immediate sequel that follows a young pathologist Mitsuo Ando (Koichi Sato) who is trying to uncover the truth surrounding the death of Reiko's ex-husband Ryuji Takayama (Hiroyuki Sanada). Like the first movie, the curse of Sadako returns to haunt those who watch the videotape. Unfortunately, "Rasen" premiered to little fanfare. Many fans of the first movie hated it and it became one of the most forgotten sequels in the "Ring" franchise.

3. "Ring 2" a.k.a. "Ringu 2" (1999)

A scene from "Ring 2".

Following the ill-fated response of "Rasen", the "Ring" producers saw it fit to brush off the forgotten sequel out of their canon and re-hire Hideo Nakata to make a brand new follow-up to the first movie. In "Ring 2", the movie now focuses on Mai Takano (Miki Nakatani), who previously appeared in the Nakata-directed 1998 predecessor as Ryuji's assistant. This time, Mai leads the sequel as she pairs with a reporter named Okazaki (Yurei Yanagi) to uncover the mystery surrounding the cursed videotape. Although "Ring 2" doesn't quite recapture the creepy undertones done so successfully by the first movie, it remains a worthy follow-up that happened to make a lot of money at the Japanese box-office.

4. "The Ring Virus" (1999)

A scene from "The Ring Virus".

Long before director Gore Verbinski and actress Naomi Watts collaborated in the American remake of "The Ring" in 2002, there was already a South Korean remake made three years prior in 1999. In "The Ring Virus", the remake follows a female journalist named Hong Sun-Joo (Shin Eun-Kyung) investigating the mysterious death of her niece as well as three of her friends. Needless to say, her investigation leads her to the cursed videotape. Of course, she ended up watching the tape and finds out that she has exactly a week to solve the mystery or suffer the deadly consequences. While "The Ring Virus" pales in comparison with the much-superior Nakata-directed "Ring", this South Korean remake still manages to succeed in its own right. The cast, especially Shin Eun-Kyung, is praiseworthy while Kim Dong-Bin's direction is equally chilling. Not to mention, "The Ring Virus" was one of the top 10's best-selling local movies at the South Korean box office.

5. "Ring 0: Birthday" a.k.a. "Ringu Zero: Basudei" (2000)

A scene from "Ring 0: Birthday".

For every successful horror movie, there will be always a prequel one way or another. Just two years after the phenomenal success of Hideo Nakata's "Ring" in 1998, then came an inevitable prequel directed by Norio Tsuruta. Titled "Ring 0: Birthday", the prequel is set thirty years before the events of the first 1998 movie where it focuses on the main antagonist, Sadako Yamamura (Yukie Nakama) during her teenage years in the 1960s. We learn that Sadako is a shy individual with a murky past who then joins a theatre group to become an actress. However, it doesn't take long before strange things start to occur as deaths start piling up. "Ring 0: Birthday" marked the directorial debut of Norio Tsuruta, who would later helm more J-horror movies such as "Kakashi" (2001) and "Premonition" (2004).

6. "The Ring" (2002)

Naomi Watts in "The Ring".

In this first American remake of Hideo Nakata's "Ring", pre-"Pirates Of The Caribbean" director Gore Verbinski was hired to direct his first horror movie and he did a surprisingly good job turning "The Ring" into a worldwide massive hit. Here, Naomi Watts played Rachel Keller, a reporter investigating a mysterious videotape that killed her niece. Soon, Rachel discovers the tape and out of curiosity, she plays it in a VCR player and watches a series of bizarre images. After the tape ends its play, she receives a weird phone call that whispers, "Seven days". With just a week to live, Rachel must unravel the mystery at all costs before it's all too late. Thanks to Naomi Watts' strong central performance and Verbinski's genuinely creepy direction, "The Ring" subsequently inspired more American remakes of other popular J-horror movies such as "Ju-On: The Grudge" (retitled in the U.S. as "The Grudge") and "Dark Water".

7. "The Ring Two" (2005)

A scene from "The Ring Two".

Three years after the surprise success of "The Ring", Hollywood figured it's a foolproof idea bringing "Ring" and "Ring 2" director Hideo Nakata on board to direct the sequel to the American remake. Set six months after the events of the 2002 movie, the cursed videotape is still around causing more deaths for whoever that watches the footage. In this sequel, a 17-year-old teenager named Jake (Ryan Merriman) becomes the latest victim of watching the tape. Soon, the news of his grisly death is spread all over the town of Astoria, Oregon where reporter Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts) and her son Aidan (David Dorfman) currently reside ever since they fled from Seattle. To break the curse, Rachel ends up snatching the tape and burns it for good. However, the nightmare is far from over when Aidan starts to fall sick. Apparently, the evil Samara (Kelly Stables) manages to find her way to cross over the real world again, this time by invading into Aidan's body. Although Nakata manages to evoke a foreboding sense of dread into this movie, his direction is largely overshadowed by a sloppy pace and less-than-compelling scare factors. While "The Ring Two" still made money at the worldwide box office, the movie was deemed as both critical and commercial disappointments. The only best thing that made this otherwise inferior sequel watchable is Naomi Watts' committed performance and her memorable "I'm not your f****** mommy!" catchphrase.

8. "Sadako 3D" (2012)

A scene from "Sadako 3D".

After over a decade's hiatus since the 2000 Japanese prequel of "Ring 0: Birthday", the iconic long-haired antagonist is back in "Sadako 3D". This time around, the movie involves a high-school teacher Akane Ayukawa (Satomi Ishihara) who learns a rumour from her students about a cursed Internet footage that causes anyone who watches it to die miserably. At the beginning, Akane doesn't believe the rumour. When one of her students become the victim of the footage, she starts her own investigation with the help of her boyfriend Takanori (Koji Seto). Soon, they discover it was an online artist named Kashiwada Seiji (Yusuke Yamamoto) who created the footage before he succumbed to his own death while attempting to resurrect Sadako Yamamura (Ai Hashimoto). Apparently, the 3D effects are the main selling point here in this otherwise lacklustre attempt to resurrect the "Ring" franchise. While the inclusion of 3D is more of a shoddy gimmick, "Sadako 3D" still manages to do decent business at the Japanese box-office.

9. "Sadako 3D 2" (2013)

A scene from "Sadako 3D 2".

After proving that a 3D horror movie does reap a sizable profit, director Tsutomu Hanabusa returns with an immediate follow-up. And yes, it was again shot in 3D. Set five years after the events of "Sadako 3D", we learn that Akane (Satomi Ishihara) died giving birth. Her boyfriend Takenori (Koji Seto) blames the child, Nagi (Kokoro Hirasawa) for the death of her mother. So, instead of taking care of Nagi, the responsibility falls to Takenori's younger sister Fuko (Miori Takimoto). Soon, strange things start to occur as Fuko suspects it has something to do with Nagi.

10. "Sadako vs. Kayako" (2016)

A scene from "Sadako vs. Kayako".

If Hollywood has two famous horror icons battling against each other in "Freddy vs. Jason", why not approach the same idea as well with the J-horror property? In order to keep the "Ring" franchise going, it was just a matter of time before we got a crossover movie like "Sadako vs. Kayako". The name Kayako, of course, refers to the long-haired woman who haunted the cursed house in the "Ju-On" movies. To pit these two J-horror icons together, the movie follows university students Yuri Kurahashi (Mizuki Yamamoto) and Natsumi Ueno (Aimi Satsukawa) who discover the videotape cursed by Sadako Yamamura (Elly Namami). Instead of killing those who watches it in seven days, the deadline is now reduced to just two days. In a desperate attempt to break the curse, the two seek the help of their professor Morishige (Masahiro Komoto), who is an expert on urban legends. Then, the next story deals with a high-school student Suzuka Takagi (Tina Tamashiro) who moves next door to the abandoned house haunted by Kayako (Runa Endo) and her son, Toshio (Rintaro Shibamoto). When a few local children mysteriously disappear, Suzuka ends up investigating the house. Both Sadako and Kayako eventually encounter each other when a pair of psychic-powered duo Keizo Tokiwa (Masanobu Ando) and a blind girl named Tamao (Mai Kikuchi) bring them together to an inevitable showdown.

"Rings" is currently showing in cinemas nationwide.

Cinema Online, 12 February 2017


Related Movies:
Rings (09 Feb 2017)
Sadako Vs Kayako (Japanese) (18 Aug 2016)

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