Okay, let me take a deep breath and explain this shit. You remember the movie THE RING, directed by Gore Verbinski, starring Naomi Watts. It was a remake of the japanese movie RINGU (or RING) directed by Hideo Nakata. (You may remember I reviewed THE RING on THE AIN’T IT COOL NEWS and also was the first motherfucker on the internet to reveal it was being made back when I reviewed RINGU and RINGU 2 for them.) The movie by Hideo Nakata came after a TV series and both were based on a novel. At the same time Nakata’s movie came out there was another movie called RING 2 or RASEN which means SPIRAL but is not to be confused with the Japanese horror movie UZUMAKI which is about spirals but is completely unrelated to rings. Well RING 2 is also not to be confused with RINGU 2 which is directed by Hideo Nakata. See, RINGU was a huge hit but RASEN (even though it was based on the sequel book) was not, so they pretended it never happened and made a new sequel. Soon after in Korea, they made a remake of the original RINGU, known here as THE RING VIRUS and I haven’t seen that one but I heard it has stuff that was ONLY in the movie version but also stuff only from the book. In the US Gore Verbinski made THE RING which is sort of the same story as the Japanese movie but now in seattle with horses and a girl named Samara instead of Sadako. That one now has a sequel coming out which is directed by, holy shit, Hideo Nakata himself, director of the original RING movie and the second attempt at the first RING movie sequel. So now he’s directing the sequel to the remake of his original, which is apparently a direct sequel to the remake, not a remake of either his original sequel or the sequel that was adapted from the book sequel that he did not direct and nobody liked.
Okay, so those are the important ones to know about. Don’t worry about the series of books and comic strips and several different TV series that retell or followup on the events of the books and movies. That will just confuse you. So put those in the forget about it bin with RASEN. Okay. So you got all that. But also there is RING 0: BIRTHDAY which is part 3 of the RINGU movie series not including RASEN and written by the guy who wrote the books. Part three but it’s called part zero because it takes place BEFORE all the other stuff.
Okay, you’re right, I don’t get it either. Look on the website theringworld for more info but for me that only made me more confused because there was more information than I expected. Sometimes it’s better not to have to do research to watch a movie.
Anyway the point is, I liked all these movies but I gotta admit I can’t remember what’s what. There was a cursed video tape and a creepy little girl in a well with long hair and a fucked up googly eye. You got seven days after you watch the video then you die, but you copy the video you’re safe, but only if you curse some other poor bastard by making them watch the tape. That’s exactly what I remember. I don’t know if it was in america or japan or korea, if the little girl had a giant eye or a regular sized eye, if the phone call had a scary voice talking to you or a scratchy noise. I get confused easy you guys. So if I say something wrong in this review then don’t worry about it man, be cool. It’s cool.
Begin actual review now. THE RING PART ZERO which is actually the one I’m trying to review here, is real different from all the other RINGS from all across the world. It takes place 30 years earlier which I assume is the early ’70s but it’s Japan so you don’t get any afros or wah wahs to make it clear. In the first movie (see above) you had a journalist investigating her niece that died from a cursed videotape. In this one they haven’t invented videotapes let alone cursed videotapes so instead we got a journalist investigating why all her colleagues died after a scientific demonstration of psychical type powers. I am not really clear if it was Sadako who was being demonstrated or her mom, but both apparently had psychic powers and both were there.
’70s Sadako is not a googly eyed vengeful ghost in a well, she is a young timid gal who just joined a drama club. As far as I can tell she is alive and has regular eyes and is not stuck in a well. BUT, she seems to be cursed. Everybody thinks she is creepy, they see apparitions around her, SHE sees apparitions around her. Best of all, everybody who knows her has been having a dream about a well. The ’70s equivalent of a cursed videotape is a dream about a well. And then all the sudden the star of the play is just sitting there during rehearsal, her eyes turn white and she dies. And everybody’s freaked when Sadako is named as her replacement.
Now up to this point Sadako has not been very likable. She sits by herself pouting with her head down, almost never talks, definitely never smiles. But then she has to get up on stage and starts to do the dialogue and suddenly we see that she is a real person with a personality. It is kind of like that scene in MULLHOLLAND DRIVE where the ditzy aw schucks blond gal does a crying monologue for an audition and you see that she’s something completely different from what you thought she was. And wait a minute… that character was played by Naomi Watts, the star of the American remake of the movie that this movie is a part 3 to? What the shit is going on here?
Anyway, these people are apparently doomed from being around her (the even get blurry when photographed) but you don’t get the same 7 days countdown. There are very few deaths in the movie. Mostly it is about Sadako as she falls in love with the play’s soundman and the rest of the drama club grows more and more suspicious of her. When they finally premiere the play it suddenly goes into CARRIE territory as people turn mean and the building starts to shake. But Sadako swears it’s not her, everybody beats her unconscious and suddenly the movie goes off in a completely different direction for the final stretch. I think there are new things revealed in this one but I gotta admit I don’t know which things I maybe forgot from the other sequels or which things I actually misunderstood and they really didn’t happen in this sequel. Also, is it just me or does this backstory open up more questions by implying a backstory with Sadako’s mother? It’s funny because it starts out saying “30 years earlier” and then the reporter starts asking questions about what happened 11 years ago!
I enjoyed it though. It’s clever the way it works the mythology of the cursed videotape into the era of reel to reel audio tape. And I liked that it made the scary ghost from the movies even more tragic now that you know how close she came to being a regular girl with a boyfriend and a talent. But that’s really what this movie is about – it is more of a tragedy than a horror movie. THE RING PART ZERO BIRTHDAY is good prequel for people interested in the story and characters of the RING series, by which I mean about ten thousand different movies, books, TV shows, comic strips, video games and I don’t know, probaly board games and commemorative stamps. Whatever makes up THE RING, this is a pretty good addition to the pile.
p.s. And after I figure this shit out, I still gotta figure out JU-ON.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.