ringcover, Ring (リング Ringu), 1998“It can’t be that scary,” I told myself as I slid the DVD into my beat-up player and turned on the TV. I was 14, we’d just moved to a new country, and with the school year still a few days from officially starting, I was desperate for something to do that didn’t involve unpacking boxes.

And besides, the cover of the DVD didn’t even feature any ghosts, just a strange-looking red circle. What even was Ringu (The Ring)?

Half an hour later, I had practically plastered myself against the wall as far from the TV as I could possibly get. I refused to look at the telephone perched on my bedside table, my duvet hovering just underneath my line of sight, ready to be yanked up as needed. It was fine, it was just a movie, no one was going to come out of my TV, especially not a ghost girl from a well–

And then the phone rang.

Some movies stay with you because of an emotional connection. Ringu stayed with me because someone pressed a five instead of an eight and called my house right after Matsushima Nanako discovered the cursed videotape and received a call.

The graphics could probably be a little bit better, though the atmosphere is amazing and terrifying in its lack of obvious jump scares. But having grown up renting tapes from Blockbuster Video and being too curious for my own good, Ringu played into very realistic situations. The first victims of Sadako’s tape were high school students, and it was frightening to think that something like this could happen to me.

It was also my first time watching a horror movie that didn’t bring out monsters every few minutes. Almost an entire hour passes before you get to see Sadako and her now infamous long black hair, dripping from the well water. The tape itself is filled with strange, almost all-unexplained imagery, though some scenes in it do serve as foreshadowing for later events, making those chills up your spine about ten times worse, as I explained to my family that night.

“Ugh,” I said, “I shouldn’t have brought it up, I’m scared all over again.”

“Why tell us about it then?” my mother wanted to know.

That’s the scariest part of this movie, really — the need to share how unnerving it becomes after watching, not unlike what happens in the film itself. Telling other people seems to ease the load of carrying the fear scary movies bring out in us, but it also means reliving those scary parts all over again. Ringu seems to say that fear isn’t something we can run away from, but that it stays with us, even after we share it with other people. It pokes at how technology makes it so easy to spread things, good and bad and everything in between, and it asks us to consider what the things we spread say about us.

still of sadako, Ring (リング Ringu), 1998, Hideo Nakata, TohoA few months after I was traumatized by Ringu, I sat in a computer lab at school, dazedly trying to follow along with my teacher’s lecture on Microsoft Access. The lights flickered, a common occurrence that week, as we had been bombarded by hurricanes all month.

Our lecture continued.

I doodled a lightning bolt on my notebook.

Someone screamed.

I looked up to find this image on the screen in front of me, there but for a second, then gone.

The hallway lights flashed off.

We never did find out who made that happen.

 

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