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15 Things You Didn't Know About The Japanese Version Of 'The Ring'

In 1998, a little Japanese horror movie named Ringu was released and it changed the face of horror cinema forever. In The Ring Japan, even the very landscape feels sinister, almost like it’s actively reaching out for you and shoving the cursed VHS in your face. And while the film is a tightly wound masterpiece of surreal horror filmmaking, Ringu behind the scenes was a true nightmare. Not only did the film take forever to make, but the company that put the film into production had a harebrained scheme they thought would make all the money – and it almost tanked one of the greatest Japanese horror films of all time. To find out about their brilliant plan, and even more Ringu trivia, keep reading and make sure you don’t answer your phone.

While The Ring remake managed to capture the eerie feeling of death slowly approaching via cursed video format, it lost something in translation. The visuals of Ringu are so heavily steeped in Japanese culture that it’s impossible to understand all of the subtleties if you didn’t grow up with the myths and folklore of the country being pounded into your head. Aside from the visual storytelling on display in Ringu, the film draws heavily from Japanese theater and dance styles to create a horror film that’s more about the pervasive feeling of dread than the jump-scare-a-minute films that were being released at the same time. Keep reading to find out even more interesting facts about Ringu

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  • Sadako's Movements Are Based On A Form Of Dance Called Butoh

    Video: YouTube

    Aside from the obvious references to Kabuki theater in the characterization of Sadako, one of the primary influences on the way the ghost girl moves is Butoh, a form of dance that came about after World War II. Butoh is notoriously difficult to define and was created to specifically avoid becoming stuck in its style. Butoh usually includes grotesque imagery, absurdities, and is performed in white body makeup with slow, deliberate motion. While viewing any Butoh performance it's easy to see the influence of this performance style on the film. 

  • The 'Seven Days' Thing Is An Actual Myth In Japan

    Photo: Toho

    According to Ringu's director, Hideo Nakata, the whole "watching a VHS tape that kills you in a week" thing was a real-deal urban legend in Japan before he started making the film. He told Offscreen

    The fact is that the video rumor about dying within one week of watching the video was already a kind of rumor, an urban legend in certain school groups, like among high school students. So maybe the momentum was right to make a film using a rumor that had already existed.

  • Ringu's Sound Design Is Meant To Put You Off Balanace

    Photo: Toho

    So much of the terror that's inflicted by Ringu comes from the way the film sounds rather than basic jump scares employed by lesser horror films. To accomplish the psychological terror of the film, Hideo Nakata and his sound designers worked furiously to make sure that the movie didn't sound like anything audiences had heard before. He even made sure that the telephone had its own otherworldly quality. Nakata said, "...they mixed four different qualities of phone sounds because they did not want them to sound like Hollywood phones!"

    Everything about Ringu, down to the way the film's almost non-score is meant to make the audience feel uncomfortable. By using the influence of "Ma," a technique where practitioners deliberately punctuate music and sound effects with rapid pauses or long drawn out silences, the sound of the film differentiates itself significantly from Western films. While Western horror uses sound to let the audience know how they should be feeling, J-Horror (and Ringu specifically), uses Ma as a way to keep the audience thrown off balance with its clustered, aggressive tonality. 

  • A Special Technique Was Used To Film Sadako Climbing Out Of The Well

    Photo: Toho

    To get the super creepy effect of Sadako crawling out of the well that she was unceremoniously dumped inside, one special effect was utilized. Rie Inō, who plays Sadako and is a student of the Kabuki theater, which uses exaggerated herky-jerky motions to emphasize emotion, and she made sure to work this kind of movement into the development of her character. To get the spooky motion just right, Inō was filmed walking backward and the film was run in reverse - which resulted in Sadako walking forwards in the unnatural motion that has given audiences the willies for almost two decades.