For this film set review, I had several ideas about which direction I wanted to focus on for the two horror films. Ultimately, what stood out to me the most about was how the original character Sadako in Ringu compared to Samara in The Ring. I noticed distinct differences between the two in physical characteristics, how she kills her victims, and her past. I feel a bit of déjà vu writing this paper because I think The Ring falls into the same trap of Godzilla 1998 by favoring fancy special effects over focusing on how Sadako defines horror.
Take the final death scene for example. While both scenes feature the death of a character, I think the one in Ringu is scarier because the viewer only sees Sadako’s engorged eye before she kills Ryuji. By not seeing her face, I’m left wondering what she’s hiding behind her hair? Does she even have a face? The scene is chilling to watch, and the slow buildup of Sadako walking awkwardly towards Ryuji increases the horrific tension.
The same sequence plays out in the American version, but the scare factor is lost completely due to an overreliance on special effects. Samara is identical to Sadako in physical appearance, but this time she’s computer generated and has a grainy look to her that is obviously a reference to the cursed videotape. The slow buildup of the scene from Ringu is gone replaced with Samara teleporting and moving much quicker then Sadako in an almost supernatural fashion. Noah dies the same way as Ryujii, but this time we see Samara’s face completely, and she looks like an angry troll. In my opinion, seeing the face of Samara makes her less freighting because the mystery behind what she is hiding behind her hair is gone.
Another thing that stood out to me about Sadako and Samera is their backstory. While watching Ringu, I didn’t learn much about Sadako other than how she died and Ryuii seeing visions of her through ESP. Since I knew very little about Sadako, I found her more interesting and felt more connected to her. I think Ringu did a good job of not explaining everything about Sadako to me and encouraged me to learn more about her online.
The Ring, on the other hand, told me too much about Samara making her less terrifying to me than Sadako. The added plot lines like Rachel’s son Aidan being able to talk to Samara and seeing her talking with doctors felt unnecessary to me. Hearing Samara talk was the worst offender to me because it made me think that she was just a lonely child who missed her Mommy too much. By humanizing Samara too much, Hollywood lost sight of what made Sadako so fear producing to viewers.
Just like the Godzilla transition to America I feel that Hollywood dropped the ball on what made characters like Sadako resonate with their Japanese audience. Much of what made Ringu great like the chilling atmosphere, slow build-up to horror, and frightening visuals became lost in the American version. Instead, Hollywood made everything bigger with flashy special effects and more action for fear of losing box office revenue.