Friday, March 21, 2008

Ring, by Koji Suzuki

(hb; 1991, 2003: first book in the Ring Cycle; translated by Robert B. Rohmer & Glynne Walley)

From the inside flap:

"Asakawa is a hardworking journalist who has climbed his way up from a local-news beat reporter to a writer for his newspaper's weekly magazine. His one mistake along the way, getting too close to the subject of one of his stories on the occult, still haunts him.

"Never much of a family man, not even his niece's sudden, inexplicable death moves him... until he leanrs that on the night of her death another healthy teenager died in Tokyo at the exact same time of sudden heart failure. Sensing something extraordinary, Asawkawa begins to investigate with the aid of his strange old classmate Ryuji, a cynical philophy professor and a self-proclaimed rapist.

"The two are led from a metropolitan Tokyo that teems with modern society's fears to rural sections of Japan -- a highland resort, a volcanic island and a countryside clinic -- that are haunted by the past. The hunt puts them on the trail of an apocalyptic force that will call for Asakawa to choose between saving his family and saving civilization."

Review:

Suzuki constructs this terrifying tale with crystal clarity, steadily ratcheting up the horror ante, as Kazuyuki Asakawa, a workaholic reporter, and Ryuji Takayama, a philosophy/mathematics professor and Asakawa's morbidly funny friend, pursue the facts relating to a video tape that causes its viewers to die in a mysterious and grisly fashion within seven days of them viewing it. The deeper Asawkawa and Takayama dig into the video tape's history, the more they find themselves immersed in Japan's not-so-distant past -- and a viral, psychic phenomena -- which may just kill Asakawa, Takayama and many more, as well.

Brilliant, scary, full of crazy-effective twists, and sporting a wow-that's-cool unsettling ending (that practically demands a sequel), this is one of the best mainstream horror novels I've read in a long while.

Followed by Spiral.



Ring has been filmed many times.

The first film, Ringu: Kanzen-ban, aired on Japanese television on August 11, 1995. Katsunori Takahashi played Asakawa. Yoshio Harada played Takayama. Ayane Miura played Sadako Yamamura. Mai Tachahara played Shizuko Asakawa, Kazuyuki's wife. Chisui Takigawa directed.



On January 31, 1998, Ringu hit the Japanese silver screen. Directed by Hideo Nakata, it starred Nanako Matsushima as Reiko Asakawa (the now-female cinematic counterpart to Kazuyuki Asakawa). Miki Nakatani played Mai Takano. Hiroyuki Sanada played Ryuji Takayama. Rie Inou played Sadako Yamamura. Hiroshi Takahashi scripted.



Ringu: Saishuso, a Japanese television series, first aired on January 7, 1999. Lasting twelve episodes, the drama -- not a horror series -- is a different take on the Ring story.



On June 10, 1999, Ringu 2 hit the Japanese silver screen. It's strictly a cinematic sequel, mostly using characters created for Ringu. Miki Nakatani returned as Mai Takano, a surviving character from the first film (who was also in the novel). Hitomi Sato, also from the first film, once again played Misami Kurahashi. Hideo Nakata, director of Ringu, directed.



The Ring: Virus, a Korean remake of Ringu, was released on June 12, 1999 in South Korea. Dong-bin Kim, who also scripted the film, directed. Eun-Kyung Shin played Sun-ju. Jin-yeong Jeong played Choi Yeol. Du-na Bae played Eun-suh.



On October 18, 2002, the American remake, The Ring, graced stateside cineplexes. Naomi Watts played Rachel Keller (the female cinematic counterpart to Kazuyuki Asawakawa). Martin Henderson played Noah Clay. David Dorfman played Aidan Keller. Brian Cox played Richard Morgan. Jane Alexander played Dr. Grasnik.  An uncredited Chuck Hicks played a "Ferry Worker".

 Directed by Gore Verbinski, it's a less atmospheric, more linear take on the Ring story.



Following the lead of Ringu 2, The Ring Two (released stateside on March 18, 2005) was less about continuing the ideas of the novel than furthering the storyline of the cinematic characters. Naomi Watts returned to her role of Rachel Keller. Simon Baker played Max Rourke. David Dorfman once again played Aidan Keller. Elizabeth Perkins played Dr. Emma Temple. Gary Cole played Martin Savide. Sissy Spasek played Evelyn. It was directed by Hideo Nakata, director of Ringu and Ringu 2.

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