The most scary movies I've ever seen have been the Asian ones. Japan is well known for their urban legends and films adapting of these stories. With a culture filled with superstition and folklore, it’s no wonder Japan produces some of the most haunting films and stories worldwide. Ringu (The Ring) is the defining Japanese horror movie that showcased the unique style of Eastern horror to the Western audience. Contrary to the usual expectations of horror movies, Ringu was a game changer. It employed tactics and plot twists with deft precision, leaving audiences shocked and disturbed by the story and jump-scares.

The story follows Reiko, a TV reporter and single-mother who becomes involved in a series of deaths linked to a supposedly cursed video tape. The film starts with two teenage friends, Masami and Tomoko, discussing the aforementioned VHS. They watched the video with their three friends who had all mysteriously died right after watching the video. Right afterwards Masami and Tomoko die during the start of the movie Ringu. Tomoko is Reiko's neice and Reiko discovers her death. She starts to investigate the video’s curse in taking innocent lives and unravels the ugly truth. This plot was fresh and new to Western audiences because it played with Japanese traditions and customs that were unfamiliar to Western audiences. For instance, in Asian culture, a person who dies unjustly can come back as a ghost and seek revenge for their death. This was the central premise that moved Ringu.

When Ringu became one of the best known horror movies around the world, Hollywood remade this movie, re-titled The Ring, using their traditional formulas in 2002. The film screened internationally and was a great success. The Ring made $8.3 million in its first two weeks in Japan alone, compared to the $6.6 million total box-office gross in America. This success opened the way for American remakes of other Japanese horror films, such as The Grudge (2004), Dark Water (2005), The Ring 2 (2005) that was directed by Hideo Nakata, the director of Ringu, the Grudge 2 (2006), Pulse (2006), One Missed Call (2008), and The Grudge 3 (2009).

Today Japanese horror has had a significant impact on the American movie industry. Japanese horror cinema tends to be atmospheric, approaching the story on a dream-like level. It is suggestive rather than definitive. Often, you are not sure exactly what happened. In many ways they are the opposite of American horror films which are common and formulaic. American studios tend to remake Japanese horror films to learn and show new story plots that haven’t played in American cinemas before and they are starting to play with suggestive atmosphere in movies like the Paranormal Activity series.

- Eun Jung -


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