Classic Book Review: Ring, 1991, By Koji Suzuki
Ring is not a novelisation of the 2003 movie, but the original Japanese novel, on which the Japanese movie was based, on which the American movie was based. That’s three times removed, with major changes each time, so for those who have only seen the American movie, this book will seem very different. I saw the American one first, then the Japanese one, then read this. The plot seemed less interesting every time, probably as a result of some reverse ‘sequel’ syndrome. Several brilliant scenes from the movie are missing here, but there is also a large amount of material not covered in the movies, some of which helps make the plot make more sense.
The blurb describes Ring as an ‘ultra-cool cutting edge thriller’. It may well have been that when it was originally published in Japan about fifteen years ago, but now it comes across as fairly ordinary pulp horror, with a few moments of interesting psychological depth. Some of the digressions and themes are interesting, like the extensive descriptions of psychic photography, while others are pretentious at best and nonsensical at worst, like the subplot about hermaphrodites that made it into neither movie.
For those who haven’t seen the movie, the plot hinges around a cursed video which causes anyone who watches it to die within seven days. The main character here is a man, another difference from the movie franchise, the fairly bland investigative reporter Asakawa. More interesting is his friend, the creepy and psychologically messed-up Ryuji. Asakawa and Ryuji spend most of the book sitting around talking about cursed video tapes, psychic photography and how they’re going to avoid their deaths in seven days, which makes Ring deeply boring in places. Asakawa and Ryuji eventually figure out that it all comes down to a psychic girl called Sadako Yamamura, and things eventually get a bit more exciting with some exorcism and corpse exhumation. However, as movie goers know, the story is far from over by this point…
Overall, however, this book is a must-read for anyone interested in the Ring franchise, as the novel that started it all. Non-Ring fans will find it a pulpy and bizarre thriller with interesting characters, many of whom are case studies for mental illness.