MAY 22. 2009
When I heard about the prequel Ringu 0: Bâsudei (The Birthday), I was intrigued, because I assumed it would be about the creation of the tape and how it got out in the first place. But no, it’s actually about how the girl in the well got there. So what I want is Ringu 0.5, or Ringu 0 Two. Call me when that one comes out.
Like Gin Gwai 2 or The Wig, it’s less a horror movie and more a sad character study about a lonely girl who already had enough problems before some ghosts or whatever entered her life. I think if I were to watch it again, knowing it wasn’t about the tape or with a lot of horror, maybe I would like it more, but it's a pretty big maybe.
One thing that certainly wouldn’t change is that it’s simply not as compelling a story as Ringu or the other films I mentioned earlier. Sure, we feel a bit bad for the girl, but we know her fate (non-spoiler - she ends up in a well), and the new story (which surrounds the production of a play) hardly picks up the slack. This time around, everyone involved with the play is being haunted by the ghost, but only like two of them die during the movie proper, only to overload the finale with a bunch of kills at once. Again, while the intent may be to focus more on character than scares, it’s still an awkward way to structure what is, in the end, a horror story. And if they want to focus on character, why not focus more (or, at all) on Sadako’s father, who is the one that kills her? His story is far more interesting (and under-developed), but yet he hardly appears in the film at all.
They also miss the opportunity to use the story to tell a mystery that Sadako would be incorrectly blamed for, which would make both this film and the films that “follow” it all the more heartbreaking. Instead, we get some weird nonsense about how Sadako has been split into two beings or something.
Another botched element is the fact that it’s supposed to be 30 years ago. Maybe a native resident can say otherwise, but to my eyes, it doesn’t look any older than the period that the other two films occur, unless you count the male lead’s sort of 70s hair. It’s easy enough to set this up via old cars, outdated electronics, etc, but the movie doesn’t have anything like that. And with everyone having nightmares of the video, it gets kind of hard to distinguish this as a prequel at all, let alone one that took place decades before.
One thing I liked; I can’t read the credits to be sure, but the score seems to be lifted or at least heavily inspired by Charles Ives’ "Unanswered Question", which is one of my favorite classical pieces (it was used in Thin Red Line as well). In fact, a lot of these J-horror films have terrific scores, and I wish there was some way of obtaining them without going into the expensive bootleg market (most of which would be written in their native language and thus I’d have no idea if I was buying the right thing or not anyway).
So I dunno... it’s nice to see a film that’s not about jump scares and long haired ghosts coming out of electronic devices, but what we get instead just wasn’t all that interesting to me. A prequel should give you a new understanding of the already existing films (even the Star Wars prequels, for all their faults, at least give you a new way of looking at Darth Vader), but this film doesn’t do that. If not for the final couple minutes, one would probably not even know it was a Ringu film at all.
What say you?