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.
Shizuko Yamamura, the mother of spooky ghost girl Sadako, is based on a real person whose life kind of turned out the same way - except for all the obsolete video formats and murder (probably). The character is based on Chizuko Mifune, a woman born in 1886 in Kumamoto Prefecture who was rumored to have a psychic gift. When she tried to give a public demonstration of her powers in 1910 she was publicly chastised for being a fraud and killed herself a year later by ingesting poison.
Honestly, Ringu is probably about ten different things: fear of technology, memetics, the patriarchal subjugation of women in modern Japan, but one aspect of the film that dovetails into every other interpretation is that boredom is driving most of the characters. It's why Tomoko and her friends watch the video in the first place, and it's why Reiko goes down the rabbit hole to discover how Tomoko died. The film is basically pointing a finger at the audience and saying, "Whatever you do while you're bored is slowly killing you. Do something."
You don't feature prominently in one of the most terrifying and popular horror films to ever come out of Japan and not become a horror icon. In the nearly two decades since the film's initial release, Sadako, the film's ghostly antagonist, has become a pop culture icon in Japan, similarly to how Freddy Krueger blew up in the US in the '80s. Sadako hasn't been on any late-night talk shows wearing Wayfarers, but she did throw out the first pitch at a Marines vs Nippon-Ham Fighters baseball game in 2012.
Since Ringu's theatrical release, there's been a rumor that an alternate cut, which features more horrific looks on the faces of Sadako's victims, was screened at the Brussels Film Festival. Despite the film's director denying the existence of an alternate cut, some people on the internet are certain that they've seen a different version. Some guy named Tom Alaerts said, "The print screened in Brussels contained an effect that was apparently cut from the finished film. In the version with which we are familiar, the bodies of those slain by Sadako are shown with their mouths open in scream. The Brussels cut, however, showed the corpses of Tomoko in the closet, Ryuji in his apartment, and Tsuji Yoko being pulled from her car with a mouth that was not simply open but deformed in a scary way: it was a narrow VERTICAL opening!"