Hideo Nakata (Japan, 1961)
debuted with the three ghost stories of
Curse, Death & Spirit (1992)
and Joyu-rei/ Ghost Actress/ Don't Look Up (1996).
Ringu (1998), an adaptation of Koji Suzuki's novel "Ringu" (1991),
The best thing of the film is the moral dilemma that emerges at the end:
what if the only way to save your son is to condemn someone else to die?
Two girls, Masami and Tomoko, are watching tv.
Masami tells Tomoko the story of a boy who made a video of a favorite show, found that the recording showed a woman predicting his death in one week, and at the end it was followed by a mysterious phone call, and the boy died after one week after.
Masami finds it amusing but Tomoko is scared: a week ealier she, her boyfriend Iwata, and two other friends have watched a strange video.
When the phone rings, they get scared but it's only Tomoko's mother.
However, a little later Tomoko is killed.
Then we see a newspaper crew interviewing the girls of the high school.
The lead reporter is Tomoko's aunt
(last name Reiko) who finds that the gossip circulating
among high-school students matches real deaths.
Reiko attends Tomoko's funeral with her young boy Yoichi.
The cause of death is mysterious.
Reiko overhears students saying that Tomoko's boyfriend Iwata and the two friends also died on the same night: everybody knows that these four watched the cursed video. Masami has been hospitalized out of her mind.
Reiko investigates a similar case and is told that the cause of death too was
mysterious: their hearts simply stopped and they died with terror in their eyes.
Reiko inspects Tomoko's room. Her sister (Tomoko's mom) is still haunted by
the sudden unexplained death.
Reiko finds a receipt for photos to be developed and pick them up at the store.
One picture has all the faces disfigured.
Back home she realizes that even her little boy Yoichi has heard the gossip
about the cursed video.
Reiko drives to the cabin where the four teenagers watched the video.
She doesn't find anything in the cabin and she takes a nap.
Then she asks the man at the reception if anything unusual happened that night
and she is attracted to a video on the shelf.
She returns to the cabin and watches the video. The video is brief and contains random images like in a surrealist experimental video.
Then the phone rings but nobody talks.
All of this matches the descriptions she heard.
Now she's afraid that she only has a week to live.
Reiko tells her estranged husband Ryuji
that she is scared but he makes fun of the
whole story like some silly superstition. She asks him to take a picture of her
and her face comes out distorted.
Ryuji watches the video for himself and this time the phone doesn't ring.
Ryuji tells Reiko that there is no reason to believe she will die,
but later we see him studying by himself and, visibly disturbed, asking an imaginary woman whether she did it.
Ryuji and Reiko watch the video again and try to decipher a strange message
uttered by a man covered in a towel.
Ryuji finds out that the man is speaking in an dialect.
It is something about the eruption of a volcano.
They search the old newspapers and find the news that the volcano erupted
40 years earlier and a woman named Shizuko predicted it... and then jumped
into the volcano.
Reiko takes Yoichi to her father's house.
In the middle of the night she has the vision of the towel man and finds
Yoichi watching the video. Reiko is terrified.
Yoichi tells her that Tomoko told him to watch it.
Now Yoichi too is at risk.
Reiko and Ryuji travel to the volcano.
Ryuji has found out that Shizuko was considered a seer in her town.
A famous researcher of extrasensory perception, Heihachiro, started experimenting on her. He was later discredited in the media and fired by his university.
Ryuji found out that Shizuko had a daughter.
Reiko and Ryuji take a room in an inn run by Shizuko's brother Takashi.
Ryuji too has telepathic powers and reads the brother's mind:
Ryuji "sees" that Takashi was there when the mad scientist conducted a public
demonstration of Shizuko's mental powers
(we see "vintage" footage of the telepathic experiment).
One of the journalists in the audience accused her of cheating and suddenly
he fell to the floor dead. Shizuko turned to her little daughter Sadako.
implying that the girl did it.
Sadako's mental power was stronger than her mom's.
Feeling a hand grab her arm, Reiko faints and a bruise is left on her arm.
Later they learn that after Shizuko killed herself,
Heihachiro took the little girl with him and they disappeared.
Ryuji thinks that Sadako is dead and the video is not from this world.
Shizuko's brother Takashi says that Sadako was evil.
They also learn that
Heihachiro had an extramarital affair with Shizuko and Sadako was his daughter.
It's been six days since Reiko watched the video.
Reiko realizes that the phone never rang at her apartment or at the inn
when the video was watched by her and by Yoichi: it only happened at the cabin where the high-school kids stayed.
Reiko and Ryuji return to the cabin.
Ryuji is driven by his mental powers to dig underneath it and discovers a well.
They both "see" the mad scientist hitting the teenager Sadako in the head and throwing her into the well.
Ryuji climbs down the well and has a vision of Sadako trying to get out of the well: she was still alive when her father threw her down there.
Ryuji and Reiko
begin to pull up buckets of water in the effort to find Sadako's corpse, but there is a lot of water.
Reiko's time is about to run out: it's been almost one week since she watched the video.
When she gets too tired to keep pulling buckets up from the well, Ryuji climbs back up and sends her down to fill the buckets.
Reiko finally discovers Sadako's hair and then the skeleton emerges.
Instead of screaming terrified,
Reiko gives Sadako's skull a motherly hug. They believe the curse is over and
return to their respective homes.
The following day Ryuji is working on an essay when he notices that
his TV-set has switched on by itself and is showing the well.
Sadako's body is climbing out of the well. His phone rings: Reiko is calling.
The body crawls out of the TV-set and moves towards Ryuji.
A force throws him on the floor and then kills him.
Before dying, Ryuji picks up the phone because Reiko is calling him but
doesn't have time to say anything. Reiko rushes to his apartment
and finds the police already there.
Reiko is puzzled that Sadako's curse has only been lifted from her
and then realizes that she did something different from everybody else:
she made a copy of the videotape.
By giving Ryuji a copy of the video she saved herself but condemned him.
Reiko then drives to her father's place, where her little boy Yoichi still is.
Yoichi too is condemned unless he makes a copy of the video and gives it
to someone else.
The film ends and we are left to wonder whether she will have Yoichi make
a copy and give it to his granpa: it's the only way for Reiko to save her son.