For a long time, my horror wheelhouse was A-horror, or horror films from Asia. On the first episode of the podcast, I spoke about how the American remake of The Ring was seminal in my development as a horror fan. The imagery of a ghost draped in impossibly long black hair really struck me. I was not alone. The image was so striking that it soon launched a remake bonanza.
This visuals and stories were new to me, but the vengeful female ghost goes way back. The imagery comes from ancient Japan, where ghosts were called yūrei. The image of a dead woman in the white burial kimono, long unkempt hair, and dangling limbs is fairly widespread. The specific kinds of ghosts featured in The Ring and The Grudge are called onryō, vengeful spirits who can affect the living with their powers. From what I understand, not all onryō are women. However, these female ghosts make the stories even more shocking. What the woman doesn’t have the power to do in life, she can do it in death. A woman killing for vengeance is always a satisfying way to shock an audience. Add a ghost lady with physic and physical abilities with a powerful visual image? Well that’s horror movie material.
I’m going to be writing about the American remakes here, but I do recommend checking out the originals if you get an opportunity. The Ring original, in my opinion is not as good as the remake. The Grudge original is far better than the remake.
The Ring was a major blockbuster for horror and was well received. The Ring has Gore Verbinski directing, Hans Zimmer doing his music magic, and Naomi Watts acting really hard. Set the movie in Seattle, and we are ready to get moody. We may not use VHS tapes much anymore, but the themes about images and ideas spreading via technology remains just as powerful now.
The film did well with female viewers. Sixty percent of the ticket buyers to The Ring were women (source). While many horror films have dealt with similar before, this had been the first in a while to really have themes, characters, and images that appealed to women.
The Ring has a PG-13 rating. It’s welcoming to the teen crowd, but it has a sophistication and respect for the audience that I feel like was lacking for a long time in horror. The Ring isn’t a perfect movie, and I could talk about white-washing issues if I wanted to write a thesis here. However, it is still a good movie even after all these years. If you haven’t watched it recently, I recommend revisiting it as I imagine your respect for the movie (and its respect for you) grows with age.
On the other side of the scale is The Grudge. The movie came soon after The Ring and was also a box office smash. However, it received generally mixed reviews. The director Takashi Shimizu, of the original movie Ju-On, jumped in to film the remake too. But something doesn’t translate. I do appreciate a haunted house movie, but the remake loses a lot of the power and impact of the original.
The ghost Kayako is awesome and that death rattle is horrifying. We have a kickass ghost, but the movie doesn’t build much suspense throughout. The writing doesn’t really give the lead actress Sarah Michelle Gellar much to work with either. That’s a shame since she is usually fun to watch. One frequent complaint people have about this movie is its lack of a linear plot. I usually don’t struggle with non-linear plots, but it does feel like creepy scenes tossed together with little connection save the haunted house and Kayako herself. The movie lacks a lot, but the scares are effective and a lot of fun.
If you really want to treat yourself to some awesome nonsense, watch Sadako vs. Kayako on Shudder. It’s a total blast.
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