As you undoubtedly know, Hideo Nakata‘s widely popular horror film Ringu spawned a myriad of sequels, prequels and re-makes all related to some degree, however minor, to the original. The commonality, of course, is not based in Nakata’s film, but rather in the original novel “Ringu” by horror author Koji Suzuki. And those familiar with the novel will also know that director Nakata played as loosely with the original storyline as any of the Ring-based films which followed. Nakata took great liberties in reshaping and retelling the tale in the manner he saw fit.
Understanding this helps, I think, in appreciating and evaluating the many Ring-based offshoots in their own respective terms, since no one film, not even Nakata’s, is wholly true to Suzuki’s original novel.
Normally, films based on the Ring novel are judged solely in terms of how impressive they are compared to Nakata’s film. This can be a valid approach, since Nakata set a new standard for scaring the bejeezus out of people. But another equally valid approach would be to consider how closely, effectively or creatively the film presents the original novel. The benefit of this perspective is that it highlights the fact that every film has been a creative re-telling of a single tale, with some trying to adhere strictly to the novel’s storyline and others offering only loosely based adaptations.
It’s probably with this in mind that Ring: The Final Chapter is best reviewed, since its starting point is clearly in the novel rather than Nakata’s film and offers an equally loosely based adaption as the film. Only months after Nakata’s film had its theatrical release in Japan, Ring: The Final Chapter premiered on Fuji Television in January 1999. The series consists of twelve 50-minute episodes covering a thirteen-day period in the life of reporter Asakawa. It differs significantly from the film version and takes its own creative liberties with Suzuki’s novels much as Nakata did. Rather than a dread and shock-filled horror, Ring: The Final Chapter is much more a supernatural crime thriller adhering only to the skeleton of the original (novel’s) storyline.
Many of the sub-plots and by-lines in Ring: The Final Chapter do not exist in either the novel or Nakata’s film version. These include the characters and storyline of the mysterious psychic Ryuuji Takayama (Tomoya Nagase), his deeply troubled sister Mai (Akiko Yada) and his skeptic nemesis Professor Kaneda (Fumiyo Kohinata). But in other respects, this TV adaptation adheres more strictly to Suzuki’s novel than the film. It retains the original genders of the main characters, for example leaving reporter Asakawa (Toshiro Yanagiba) as a male. It also depicts the primary medium of the curse as a virus; a ring-shaped virus which is actually the basis and meaning of the original novel’s title “Ring”.
All in all, however, this is a very freely rendered and thus unique adaptation of the Ring tale. It certainly cannot stand up against Nakata’s film, but it does not try to and instead offers “Ring” fans a new and different way to indulge themselves.