The 1998 Japanese horror film by Hideo Nakata, Ringu, is the highest grossing horror film in Japan. Its influence on numerous Asian horror films that followed is seen in many of the narrative, visual, and thematic similarities that they all share. The Thai horror film The Victim is one example. This essay will discuss the role that the media and technology plays, along with the treatment of the supernatural in both Ringu and The Victim. Lastly, it will show how both films share similar complex narrative structures.
In both Ringu and The Victim, media and technology are presented as causes of the characters’ demise, and serve as conduits in which the supernatural asserts itself in the characters’ worlds. In Ringu, the cursed videotape brings death upon the viewer unless it is duplicated and passed on. The other medium, the telephone, acts as the bringer of bad news, informing the victim of his numbered days. As such, Ringu vilifies these technological gadgets that have become prevalent in modern day society, providing a social commentary of the infectious nature of the media, and its ability to influence and corrupt.
Society’s oblivion towards harmful media effects can be seen in Ryuji’s initial disbelief of the cursed videotape, dismissing Reiko by saying “It’s just a videotape”. Furthermore, the scene of Sadako crawling out of the television set towards a helpless Ryuji, possibly serves to symbolically represent society’s powerlessness in the face of media influence. Society’s inability to resist the lure of the media is likewise seen in The Victim. Ting’s obsession with making it big in the media industry compels her to take on an acting job that could potentially offend the supernatural.
The issue of the relationship between the mass media and the popular culture has always been a controversial issue in social sciences. The political economists insist on the role of the media industry in the creation of this phenomenon of the twentieth century. Though, advocates such as John Fiske, argue that popular culture is actually the creation of the populous itself, and is independent of ...
The supernatural also intrudes the protagonist’s world via technological gadgets like that in Ringu. During the filming process, a ghostly voice screams “Why the f*** did you cut?! ” into Shane’s headphones. He also witnesses an abrupt change in the television screen while on the phone at the editing suite. The supernatural also make its presence known on video, when Joke shows Shane the supernatural sightings found in the video footages. Despite such occurrences, Shane’s media ambition blinds him to the impending doom that awaits his crew.
During the oblation, May curiously puts on the coronet and ends up becoming possessed. Shane however, trivializes the severity of the issue by nonchalantly saying, “You gotta add more lines about Likae dancing. It’s gonna be a blockbuster. ” As such, both Ringu and The Victim both present society as being consumed by the media, both literally and metaphorically. In both films, the supernatural is seemingly commonplace, and believed to “exist alongside the ordinary and everyday” (Wee, 2010).
It is something that is accepted readily as fact in the worlds of both films.
For example, many of the characters in Ringu possess extra-sensory abilities. Shizuko is a psychic, while Yoichi and Ryuji both have supernatural abilities. Hideo Nakata sees no need to justify Yoichi’s ability to communicate with Tomoko as well as Ryuji’s vision of the press event, expecting viewers to simply accept the existence of the supernatural as status quo (Wee, 2010).
Reiko watches the videotape and genuinely believes that she would die within seven days from supernatural causes. The supernatural is also presented as something to be appeased.
Both Ryuji and Reiko attempt to do so by emptying the well to find Sadako’s body, in an attempt to rid themselves of her curse. The supernatural is likewise acknowledged and respected in The Victim. Ting demonstrates her sensitivity towards the supernatural by questioning Lieutenant Te if playing the characters of the dead was an insult to their souls. He replies, “We’re helping them capture the criminals”, showing that he too believes in the supernatural. Kak is seemingly indifferent towards supernatural experiences, as she tells Shane “I’ve experienced the same [supernatural occurrences]”.
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Joke was surprisingly calm when he shows Shane the supernatural sightings caught in the video footage. He even jokes about it by saying “You don’t have to do CG anymore”. Joke’s apparent lack of surprise and shock towards the supernatural sightings possibly implies that such sightings are normal, or even expected, in the world of The Victim. Characters in The Victim also attempt to pacify the supernatural as seen in Ringu. The film crew performs the oblation ritual, while Ting prays on set upon the completion of each project.
May also offers her respect to Meen by asking her for forgiveness, reflective of not only her reverence for Meen’s spirit, but also Man’s desperate plea to the supernatural for mercy. Thus, both Ringu and The Victim present Man and the supernatural as co-existing entities, with the former being subordinate to the latter. Unlike most films that follow the classical Hollywood style of narrative, both Ringu and The Victim have convoluted plotlines that occasionally leave viewers confused. The events in both films are presented non-linearly, with a level of ambiguity and no strict regard for logic and flow.
In Ringu, two distinct storylines are told concurrently, that of Reiko’s plight (and the contents of the videotape), as well as Sadako’s past. Viewers are presented with the incoherent contents of the videotape at first, and have to attempt to figure out their meanings as the film progresses. However, the resolution to Ringu’s mystery can be seen as less than satisfying, with the film’s questions “conveniently” answered through Ryuji’s visions at various instances of the film. Such a narrative technique in the form of a “vision” is indeed rather illogical, and might be seen as weak by some viewers.
Ringu also makes no attempt for clarity in some of its elements, such as “the origins of the cursed videotape, and how the images appear on the videotape. ” (Wee, 2010).
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If Ringu’s narrative style is deemed confusing, then The Victim’s takes it to a whole new level, with the first fifty minutes of the film being an actual film being filmed in the storyline itself. Whilst we see a “story within a story” in Ringu, The Victim seeks to confuse viewers by introducing the radical concept of a “film within a film”.
The viewers’ disorientation is intensified in the back parts of the film, when May was pushed off the balcony by a ghost, only to realize that it was a dream. She then wakes up again from yet another dream, further blurring the lines between fact and fiction for the viewer. There are also a number of abrupt and disjointed scene transitions in The Victim. For example, the scene of May’s supernatural encounter at the car park elevator is immediately followed be a scene of her dancing at a temple.
The ending of The Victim is a cliff-hanger which is sudden and ambiguous, with the closing line of “I am May” in a distorted voice leaving viewers in suspense and wondering “who’s who. ” As such, it is apparent that both Ringu and The Victim lack narrative clarity, and the directors probably make no apologies for it. While The Victim does not entirely emulate Ringu, it is definitely similar in various ways, such as those discussed in this essay. An appreciation of these similarities can help us to appreciate the influence of Ringu on modern Asian horror films.