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Ring: The Final Chapter (1999)


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Ring: The Final Chapter [Ringu : Saisho shu]

Genre: Ringu-based TV series
Director: Hiroshi Nishitani, et al. (1999)

review in one breath

This is a 12-episode, 10-hour, made-for-TV adaptation of Koji Suzuki's now infamous novel, Ringu. This originally aired on Fuji TV in 1999 only months after the theatrical release of Nakata Hideo's genre-busting film. Loosely based on the original tale, this is a quasi-horror crime thriller which despite a far lesser shock value than the film, remains a very polished and entertaining series.

intro

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.

plot

Newspaper reporter Kazuyuki Asakawa stumbles across a growing urban myth involving a cursed video tape which kills, to the minute, on the 13th day after viewing. The story is hardly worth considering until mysterious and seemingly related deaths begin hitting closer to home. His investigation leads him to popular occultist Ryuuji Takayama whose recently televised challenge of a skeptic of the supernatural has resulted in suspicion of murder.

With the esoteric advive of Takayama and Asakawa's dogged investigative knack, he locates the supposed cursed video and finds it contains a super-imposed message containing a vehement curse to anyone watching it, foretelling the viewer's death 13 days from the moment. having now watched the video himself, and convinced of its malevolent capability, he sets out to discover the cause and hopefully cure of whatever is behind the rash of inexplicable deaths.

verdict

I can say that I enjoyed this and watched the entire 10-hour series in two sittings. As I mentioned above, in terms of shock-horror value this offers very little in comparison to Nakata's film. But in terms of a supernatural crime thriller, this kept me engaged, curious and yes, guessing until the end. The cast is strong and includes front-line talent in the world of Japanese television. In addition to extensive TV appearances you may recognize Yanagiba, who plays reporter Asakawa, from Senrigan and Bayside Shakedown 1 & 2. Hitomi Kuroki, who plays the genetic researcher also appeared in Senrigan, as well as Gakkou no Kaidan 3 and Dark Water. And Kotomi Kyono who plays Asakawa's assistant Yoshino also appears in Bounce Ko Gals, Takeshis, and 9 Souls.

Keep in mind, of course, that this is "made-for-TV" and clearly has that feel from start to finish. But if you're okay with that and you want to broaden your Ringu Repertoire, you may just enjoy this, as I did.

You can find subtitled Region 0 (all regions) of this on E-bay. I wouldn't hold your breath for it to be released mainstream. All 12 episodes come on a single DVD, which makes its price very affordable for a 10-hour ring-a-thon (of sorts).

Version reviewed: Region 0 DVD (with subtitles)

cultural interest violence sex strangeness
The earliest re-adaptation of Suzuki's novel, into a loosely based, 10-hour crime thriller series. Corpses with shocked facial expressions is about all you'll see. One "redrum" scene. No naughty bits.. An early, creative re-telling of the Ringu tale, but nothing really on the "strange" spectrum.

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