Fortnight of Fright | Book vs Movie: The Ring

Fortnight of Fright

Believe it or not, friends, but I’m not one for scary movies. I know. Hosting a Halloween event over here. But it’s true: they’re just not my favorites, and definitely not a go-to when I’m looking for something to watch. Alas.

Good thing we have Erin from Bluestocking Bookworm to handle this for us! And because we’re all book nerds at heart here, she’s comparing a scary movie to its book version. Excellent! Just let me know when I should cover my eyes, k?

I had originally planned to compare three horror books against their movie counterparts for this post, but Netflix decided to be a bum and pull two of the three movies I was planning on reviewing RIGHT BEFORE Halloween. So I had to modify a little.

Here there be spoilers for the original (translated) book and the first American version of The Ring movie.

The Book

Book cover The Ring

Ring by Koji Suzuki | 282 pages | Published: 1991 (2004 in English) 

I was expecting a lot more from Ring by Koji Suzuki. As a horror fan, I tend to gravitate to scary books, especially around Halloween. This one came highly recommended, and while I enjoyed it, I didn’t love it.

What I did like was that the characters do a lot of research about the tape in order to find out who made it and what they need to do to escape the curse of dying after watching it. The novel is fairly atmospheric and abstract, and tackles the ever-present issue of science versus the paranormal.

The story is meandering and the impact of the tape itself was lacking. However, if you are interested at all in the source material behind the movie, I do encourage you to read it.

Some trigger warnings for you if you are interested in the book: There is a fair bit of rape that happens in the book, and goes unchecked. The main antagonist is vilified for being intersex. And there is a lot of casual sexism.

The Movie

Ring movie

The Ring | Directed by Gore Verbinski | Released 2002 

This was the second time I watched this movie. The first time was when it was released 15 years ago. Just let that sink in for a moment. This movie is 15 years old. And I remembered it being pretty scary to me. A fun little fact: my husband would not be in the same room as me while I watched this movie.

Overall, The Ring holds up to the test of time. I can’t regard it with the same ignorance I did as a teenager, and as such, I was very acutely aware of how much they changed and how problematic the movie actually is. But that is a post for another day.

The gore in The Ring is minimal, but the cinematography and the music combine to keep the mood very tense. I really admire Naomi Watts in this role, though the rest of the cast was lacking.

Overall? If you haven’t watched any American remakes of Japanese horror films, The Ring is a good place to start. It was made in a time when gore wasn’t the be all and end all of horror movies, and jump scares were still scary. But be prepared for some unintentionally funny scenes and some unanswered questions.

Trigger warnings for: child abuse and murder, animal death, and suicide. Mild gore.

Comparison

The cast of characters in the movie version is much more likeable, save for the creepy kid who gives us most of our plot advancement. The story also seems to progress a lot more naturally in the movie versus the meandering narrative of the novel.

The movie gets rid of a lot of the triggering content of the novel, erasing the rape and the vilification of Sadako/Samara due to her being intersex. This is really refreshing, as rape is too often used as a plot device in stories featuring women. However, Samara (the Americanized version of the little girl) is still heavily coded as Japanese, and is styled to portray the Japanese version of ghosts and spirits.

The novel features smarter characters and a more abstract “killer” video. It also has an interesting idea behind why you have to copy the movie to survive that ties into epidemiology and smallpox, of all things.

If you are going for pure scare value, I recommend the 2002 film over the book. The jump scares and atmospheric-level of horror are incomparable to the novel. The novel is actually fairly true to the story of the original novel, it has just been completely Westernized. W But if you want to get the whole picture of the origins? Read the book first.

Bonus

I watched the 2017 film, Rings, as well. I got bored. It had a great twist ending, if you can wait that long, and the premise of bringing Samara’s curse into an age of instantly shared videos was potentially awesome. But ultimately, it fell victim to the same things that a lot of horror films do these days. It tried to shock you into being scared instead of focusing on actually scary things. It also falls back on tired tropes and rehashes an old plot yet again. I don’t recommend wasting time on this sequel.

The story of The Ring is based loosely on a Japanese legend about a maid named Okiku. You can learn more about her story here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banch%C5%8D_Sarayashiki. And if that interests you, I highly recommend checking out the novels The Girl from the Well and The Suffering by Rin Chupeco.

Comments

  1. I actually didn’t even know The Ring was based on a book! Interesting. I remember watching the movie years ago… I can’t believe it’s been 15 years since it came out though! So creepy then and probably still creepy for me now lol.

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