17 April 2016

THE RING VIRUS. (1999) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.


THE RING VIRUS. (1999) DIRECTED BY KIM DONG-BIN. MUSIC BY WON II AND CHANG YANG -KYOO. STARRING SHIN EUN-GYEONG, JEONG JIN-YEOUNG, BAE DU-NA AND KIM CHANG-WAN. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is the Korean take on Koji Suzuki's 'RING' or 'RINGU' novel, the book that sparked the Japanese 'RING' phenomenon. You could pretty much refer to it as Koji Suzuki's pension fund by now, it's been so lucrative for the lucky sod! There have been numerous screen adaptations and remakes and, every time I think I've seen 'em all, another one pops up...!

Let me give you some background on the book. It's not boring, I promise you! The book was first printed in June 1991. It took about seven years before the hugely successful movie hit the big screen. Let me tell you, this gives me hope for my own books. Apparently, I only have about five years to wait before they're picked up by Hollywood and turned into massive film franchises, heh-heh-heh. Wishful thinking, eh...?

Anyway, the book is technically made up of four parts. RINGU or RING is the big money-maker, but there's also RASEN (SPIRAL), LOOP and BIRTHDAY, which is actually a manga or graphic novel. I wouldn't know any of this if it weren't for the fact that my best friend in the whole world is a huge fan of the RING books and films and Asian horror in general. Her collection of Asian horror films is second to none and it's where I go when I need a fix of supernatural shenanigans, haha.

I might just add that it was my good self who found a battered paperback copy of the original RING book on a stall outside a charity shop for the princely sum of just one euro. When I gave it to my friend as a gift for Christmas 2012, she reacted like I'd just handed her the Holy Grail or the winning lottery numbers or something. That's how much of a find it was. Back then, I didn't know what a big deal the book was but now, four years later, I'm all caught up. I'm almost as expert as she is now. Well, I said almost...!

THE RING VIRUS might just possibly be my favourite screen adaptation of the RING films. The storyline is faithful enough to the original plot, but with a few interesting tweaks. Sun-joo is an attractive young Korean journalist and single mother to the most adorable little girl called Boram.

When Sun-joo's niece dies gruesomely under mysterious circumstances, Sun-joo begins an investigation that takes her to some dark and dangerous places. You probably already know that the cause of death is a videotape which kills anyone who watches it.

When you watch it, you first get the titular ring on the phone, then a week later, bam! You're dead as a doorknob. Your official cause of death will be cardiac arrest but your facial features will be contorted as though you've looked into the face of the devil himself at close quarters. Grim, isn't it...?

I must add here that I initially thought that the title of 'RING' or 'THE RING' referred to a piece of ladies' jewellery. It's actually the eerie phone call you get after you watch the tape and it also refers to the 'cyclical' nature of the curse which just goes round and round in circles and never seems to end. 

Sun-joo, naturally, watches the tape when she eventually tracks it down with the help of the rather eccentric and unconventional Dr. Choi, whose involvement in the case is due to the fact that he was present at the autopsy of Sun-joo's niece. Sun-joo gets the phone call of death. When Dr. Choi watches the tape as well, they both have exactly one week to live. One week to either unravel the mystery of the tape or die horribly.

By the way, Sun-joo is accidentally neglectful enough to let her sweet little daughter Boram watch the deadly videotape so now she's not just fighting for her own life. Her own child's life is now on the line as well...

There's an interesting bit added to this movie that I don't remember seeing in the other films. Someone has recorded over the end of the tape, possibly erasing the bit where the viewer is told what he can do to break the spell and not die at the end of one week. Sun-joo and Dr. Choi twist themselves up into knots trying to solve the riddle of the tape. Remember 'THE RIDDLE OF THE SANDS,' the film of Erskine Childers's novel? Well, now we've got 'THE RIDDLE OF THE HAUNTED VIDEOTAPE.' It's every bit as compelling...!

Their endeavours lead them, of course, to the girl with the long white dress and the long black hair obscuring her face. The girl who made the tape with the telekinetic power of her remarkable mind. The girl whom you might know as Sadako, though she's called Park Eun-Suh in this film. The girl who must be found if the curse of 'the ring' is to be stopped. Unfortunately, that might just be easier said than done, though, as she's no longer... Well, I can't tell you.

There's a fantastic music score that really helps to ramp up the tension. Check out the flashback scene in which the guy is watching a naked Sadako shower through a peephole in the bathroom wall. The soundtrack pounds and throbs away as he sees something that proves to be his undoing, just like Sadako's half-brother sees something too that gives him the shock of his life. What the hell is it?

I can tell you definitively that it's something from the book which doesn't make it into the other film adaptations and it's a very exciting element to be added into the mix. In fact, I'm reliably informed by my best mate and Asian horror consultant that this film version is the one that's most faithful to Koji Suzuki's book.

Koji Suzuki's been referred to, by the way, as 'the Japanese Stephen King.' I love that description, as I'm a huge fan of the King and his books and his seemingly endless movie adaptations. Every time he coughs, it gets turned into a film...! Sooooo jealous. Here's me, a struggling writer, and then there's Stephen King. Ah well. My time will come. 'Prob... Prob'ly,' as Kirk Van Houten from THE SIMPSONS might say!

I personally love this version of 'RING.' It's well-done and it's good 'n' spooky, with gorgeous scenes of the sea and the woods and the rain for all you nature-lovers out there. The ending, as usual, is both sad and shocking and will stay with you for a long time after you've finished watching the movie.

Enjoy the film, anyway. My best pal's just given her seal of approval to this review and she's also lent me her precious copy of the Koji Suzuki book 'RING' to read with a view to furthering my Asian horror education. Next time we talk, I'll be even more of an annoying know-it-all than I am now, haha. Won't that be fun? Was that a 'yes' I heard...? Say yes...!

  AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

 You can contact Sandra at:


http://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com






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