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Ring 0 Birthday (Tsuruta Norio 2000)


Ring 0: Birthday
[Ringu 0: Baasudei]

Genre: Teen-Angst Supernatural Horror

review in one breath

Ringu 0, directed by Tsuruta Norio (who also directed Kakashi a year later) is the last in a line of (Japanese) movies based on Nakata Hideo's Ringu. In Ringu, you may remember, the plot revolved around discovering and uncovering the mysterious Sadako who lived 30 years in the past from the characters' perspective. And although the story's characters do a pretty good job of locating the source of the malevolent evil they are experiencing, by movie's end Sadako seems more enigmatic than where we began. Enter Ringu 0, which takes place those 30 years ago and tells the (nearly) complete story of an adolescent Sadako during the weeks leading up to her fateful meeting with her father at the well.

Ring Movies

Ringu (1998)
Rasen (1998)
Ringu 2 (1999)
Ring: The Final Chapter (1999)
Ringu 0 (2000)

Adolescent Sadako appears to be a normal high school student whose interest in drama has made her the apprentice to the leading role in an upcoming theatrical performance. When the lead dies suddenly (and mysteriously), Sadako finds herself in the spotlight. And although she can indeed act, her performance itself turns into a nightmare akin to that of the homecoming queen scene in Carrie. And that is only the beginning of the horror.

This movie portrays Sadako very much as the victim such that the movie's climax is understood as a meting out of justice by Sadako upon her oppressors. Throughout the film, she is blamed for strange occurrences by ever larger groups of people until a mob wielding hammers and cleavers have their way with her. But the audience is privy, at least in regards to the death which the mob punishes her for, that she is not the cause. She is, in essence, an outsider who is marginalized and misunderstood. The one character who becomes close with her not only falls in love with her (and she with him) but also discovers she possesses an amazing power of healing, precisely the opposite of what she is otherwise accused of. The discovery of Sadako's healing power is a key moment in the film (but this isn't a spoiler) since it suggests that had the mob's suspicion and violence been controlled, the world would be blessed by this gift.

All this to say, Ringu 0 presents a Sadako vastly different from that of in Ringu. At the end of the latter, although we might feel sorry for little Sadako to some degree, there is still a very strong sense that she is to be feared above all, that she is an uncontrollable power from unidentified origins. By the end of Ringu 0, however, the audience cannot help but see Sadako as the victim of others' cruelty and misunderstanding due to her special gifts (which, as mentioned above, turn out to be quite angelic).

The pace of this movie seemed quite slow the first two-thirds, perhaps because I was anticipating the chills and thrills of Ringu. Instead of chills and thrills, we get alot of cameos of Sadako as we follow her through her ordeals during the drama rehearsals and opening night. She also picks up a boyfriend along the way. Due to this, I would dare say that unless I had seen Ringu and had a keen interest in learning more, I would neither have enjoyed nor understood Ringu 0. The last third, however, does deliver on the chill-o-meter when the Sadako we all know and love returns, and Ringu fans will find themselves back in familiar horror territory.

All in all, this is a good prequel to Ringu and can be recommended viewing. But I have to say that I was not prepared (nor willing) to humanize and empathize the Sadako of Ringu into a giddy teen nervously belting out theatrical lines on the stage while winking at her new boyfriend in the sound booth. (!!!)

cultural interest violence sex strangeness
Prequel to the wildly popular Ringu, this provides the history leading up to the infamous well scene. One fear-inflicted death. One death by wrestling. One berserk mob bludgeoning. Then a whole series of untimely demises. Who knew that Sadako was a babe? A dark, demonic, killing-machine babe... This one is probably only for Ringu fans.

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