The novel that started off the film franchise which consists of 12 films (and a few TV series) across the Japanese, Korean and American versions. For those not in the know, evil spirit Sadako (or Samara in the American films) has made a psychic videotape, which, if you watch it, you will die in seven days. It was at the forefront of the J-Horror (Japanese horror) film boom in the 90’s (other examples include The Grudge, Suzuki’s other novel-turn-film Dark Water and the disturbing Audition).
I was quite the fan of the American remake, The Ring, starring Naomi Watts, and thought it and its sequel were damn fine horror films. I had seen the original Japanese Ringu but never got into that series as a whole. That said, I thought I’d give the source material a try, particularly with all of this Covid-Stay at Home going on.
People normally say that the book is better than the film. This, however, is not the case. It couldn’t be further from the truth. The bones are there, but all of the good parts of the film, both visually and narratively, are essentially from the films.
The novel, Ring, tells the story of Asakawa, a journalist who delves into the mysterious deaths of four teenagers. The writing in the novel is pretty poor – and the translation can’t do much to elevate it, as evidenced from it having not one, but two translators – and the author somehow manages to make the main character have barely no character and still be unlikeable. And look, not all characters have to be likeable, but you need something.
And characters not being likeable brings me to my biggest issue with the book, Asakawa’s best friend and buddy Ryuji. Ryuji is a rapist, something he casually drops into conversation, something his best friend knows and whilst he, in theory, says he has a problem with it, he certainly doesn’t seem to. And Ryuji has raped multiple people, and Asakawa doesn’t care one jot.
This book is icily misogynistic. Sadako, is raped and murdered, by a man who basically just sees her and is driven into a frenzy. Both rapists in the book seem to have ‘zero control’ and the whole book talks over and over and over about how beautiful and seductive girls are.
To make matters worse, the book later suggests that Sadako influenced her rapist to rape and kill her. And further to this, Sadako’s rapist finds that she is intersex, and has testicles, and then the characters and the book go oh she’s not a real woman that explains why she wants this tape/virus to spread. All of it, is frankly, just vile.
A terrible book, badly written, nonsensical at times, wildly misogynistic and transphobic. Watch one of the movies instead.