Ringu vs. The Ring: Smackdown
Dir. Hideo Nakata (Ringu) & Gore Verbinski (The Ring) (1998, 2002)
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
This one’s for all the marbles! As we discussed in our reviews of both Ringu and The Ring, we are here to once and for all decide which one is the best version: original Japanese or American remake? There are many similarities between the two films, far more than between the Last House on the Left comparison we’ve handled previously. While there are many folks out there who flat-out won’t even watch a remake, it has always been my contention that there are many things that you can gain from taking a re-look at an original property, and occasionally, the remake is a better, and often more watchable, film. That may be the case in this comparison… I don’t know, let’s find out!
We’ve broken the comparisons into several different categories, with the winning film getting one point for each category won to contribute to the final score that will determine the winner. As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts as to which was the better Ring, but until then, here’s mine!
Reiko vs. Rachel
The names are similar, but the characters are wildly different between the Japanese original and the American remake. Reiko is the Japanese prototype of a woman: she works as a subordinate, she defers to the leadership of a man, and she is relatively demure when it comes to fighting for her opinion. However, she’s also a strong mother, and she will stop at nothing (with the help of her ex) to find out the origins of this creepy-ass video and save their son from danger. Rachel is Naomi Watts, and she plays the role to perfection. She is strong, needing no real help from her ex and father of their child, though he does come along for the ride to do a bit of breaking and entering when called upon. While Reiko had to be forced to go into the well and try to rescue Samara from her grave (via a completely inappropriate bitch-slap from her ex-husband), Rachel accidentally falls into the well but immediately gets to work regardless. She’s wrong about what needs to happen to resolve the problem, but she figures it out in much the same way that Reiko does. While Ringu cuts off before we see how Reiko is going to copy the movie and save her son, The Ring leaves us with the impression that we, the audience, are who she is showing the film to. It’s an effective treatment of the character, who is willingly dooming everyone in the audience to death so that her son may live. Score one point for the stronger mother and the stronger character overall.
Yoichi vs. Aidan
The names are… well, they’re not really similar at all, and the characters are just as different. Yoichi is just a kid, a child of a single mother who finds himself drawn to the videotape, thus dooming him to be killed by the tv girl. Aidan is creepy as fuck, and he delivers a good bit of the scariness throughout the film’s runtime. He constantly utters freaky sayings, including the “You weren’t supposed to help her” that is the final indication that the Evil Girl Who Lives in the Well is not the Nice Girl Who Lives in the Well. He’s the prototypical creepy kid, and he hits the nail on the head with his performance. While Yoichi is certainly the more innocent of the two, Aidan is the better character in a horror movie.
Plot vs. Plot
Both films are pretty slow, to be honest. The Ring clocks in at damn near two hours, while Ringu is a nice, tight hour and a half. That may not make the difference to some people, as there are some scenes included in the American film that are absent from the Japanese film, including two incredibly effective suicide scenes (a horse and a dude, respectively). However, it’s tough to give The Ring the point on this one because it’s sooooo long at times. It easily could’ve taken out roughly 20 minutes of driving around and investigating boring buildings to match the runtime of the Japanese film, and had it done so it would be the much more fast-paced film. That being said… the plot is the same, so you really have to give each a point here.
Ringu: 1, The Ring: 3
Hideo Nakata vs. Gore Verbinski
Verbinski creates a beautifully shot film here, and I can’t overstate that enough. The entire mood of The Ring was perfect for an American movie. But you can’t forget that, ultimately, he was copying from Nakata. Nakata creates a lot of the same kind of feel on a much smaller, non-Hollywood budget, and the sense of anxiety and dread that comes pouring out of the same is similar in both films. While I’d love to give credit to Verbinski for the actual scare-factor of the film, which is MUCH higher than that in Ringu, that, I believe, is a product of the increased budget more than the director himself. Point goes to the OG.
Sadako vs. Samara
There are things to love about each character here. Sadako is much creepier, with her disjointed movement and minimal screen-time. She’s used effectively and efficiently, pouring out the scares every time you see her on screen. Nakata doesn’t ever show her face beyond her iconic eyeball, believing that less was more when it comes to his main villain. There is an excellent scene where Reiko finds Sadako’s hair in the bottom of the well, and it pulls away to reveal a disgusting, gooey skull. It’s a particularly nice touch, but it hardly counts towards the character itself. While I do hate that they showed Samara’s face, especially during the scene where she crawls out of the television, you can’t fault the character for that, and her evilness is on full display when we are able to see her videos from the psychiatric hospital. She’s evil, through and through, and she doesn’t even get the benefit of the doubt that Sadako has, because the one time we see Sadako actually kill someone in real-time, it’s someone who is approaching her mother violently. That’s not evil, that’s self-preservation! Point goes to Samara, one of the creepiest kids ever caught on film.
The Films as a Whole
Both of these films are great, to be honest. They have enough in common that it’s tough to parse too much of a difference between them. Many of the scenes in the original are matched with scenes in the remake, though there are some incredibly effective scenes in the remake that don’t occur in the original. The biggest thing that separates these two films is the culture in which they are produced. Japan has some of the scariest and weirdest urban legends/folklore of any country on Earth, and the film reflects that because Sadako is the representation of a myth that previously existed. The scare tactics and ambience are distinctly Japanese, the success of which largely depends on whether the audience appreciates J-Horror. If you do, I could easily see Ringu winning this category by a mile; if you don’t, The Ring wins handily. So which is actually better, from someone who appreciates both? It’s simple: both films are excellent, and both are absolutely worth a watch. I’m tempted to give The Ring the edge here for its cultural impact on American horror, but you could comfortably make the same argument about Ringu’s impact on Japan, and to be honest, you’d probably be able to make a better case. All in all, I think both films get the point for this category.
Ringu: 3, The Ring: 5
That’s all, folks! This match is over, and the winner, by decision is… The Ring! The American remake takes the crown, but it was closer than I thought it would be when I set out to do these reviews. Ringu is truly an excellent film, and the only thing that holds it back is the culture in which its produced and the extent to which a wide audience would appreciate it. While I think both Aidan and Rachel easily win their rounds, Nakata is a fantastic filmmaker and absolutely decimated Verbinski. The plots are similar so there’s no separation at that point, but Samara brings home the win in a legendary horror performance that will never be forgotten. What do you think? Is this a split decision? Do you agree, disagree, or don’t give a shit either way? Let me hear what you think, hit that little contact form on the main page, and send me your thoughts! The next heavyweight fight is coming soon, and you’re not going to want to miss it!