"You could say it's "more human" than the others, with Sadako (ably played by Yukie Nakama) getting the spotlight and finally being portrayed as a person, rather than a faceless, malevolent entity whose very name induces tremors of fear."
Ring 0 (2000)
AKA: Ring 0: Happy Birthday
Director: Norio Tsuruta
Producer: Shinji Ogawa, Masao Nagai
Writer: Koji Suzuki (based on his novel "Loop")
Cast: Yuki Nakama, Kumiko Aso, Daisuke Ban, Chinami Furuya, Masami Hashimoto, Kazue Kadokae
Running Time: 99 min. (PAL)
Plot: The video curse which struck in the previous installments of Ring was not, it turns out, the first incarnation of the fatal power possessed by Sadako. With a death toll reaching back as far as the 1950s - when open-reel tape recorders were the technological means by which the curse could manifest itself - the dark legacy has been more widespread than anyone could have imagined. Finally, the secrets surrounding the evolution of the curse are about to be revealed...
Availability: This title is available at HKflix.com
NUMSKULL'S REVIEW: Here we have both the last and the first installment of the highly successful Ring sequence, rewritten for the screen by creator/novelist Koji Suzuki and directed by Norio Tsuruta, a newcomer to the series. Taking place three decades before the events of the other two films, it illustrates the latter days of Sadako's life before the tragic fate to which she is doomed comes to pass. You could say it's "more human" than the others, with Sadako (ably played by Yukie Nakama) getting the spotlight and finally being portrayed as a person, rather than a faceless, malevolent entity whose very name induces tremors of fear.
Sadako is a shy, quiet girl with burgeoning psychic powers...a comparison to Stephen King's "Carrie" is just begging to be made...who joins a theater group to try and overcome her social inhibitions. She becomes involved in a bizarre love/lust triangle with Mr. Shigemori, the director, and Toyama, the sound guy, and arouses a great deal of suspicion when the troupe becomes plagued with nightmares and other unexplained phenomena. Additionally, the widow of one of the reporters from the disastrous exhibition of Shizuko's (Sadako's mother) mentalism back in the '50s is on Sadako's trail with more than mere curiosity on her mind. If you think you know where the story is headed...you're probably right.
As the climax draws near, the often mentioned, rarely seen Dr. Ikuma confirms a shocking secret about Sadako...and by "shocking" I mean "absurd". The loss of credibility that this moment causes is made worse by the blithe, straightforward manner in which it is presented. Its significance becomes clear after a bit of reflection on the series as a whole, but it's still worthy of a resounding "What the FUCK?!?" and I say the movie would be better off without it. Pity...were it not for this, I would have rated Ring 0 as considerably better than Ring 2. As it is, it's still the sequel's superior, but the first Ring remains undisputed king of the hill. (Actually, seeing as how this is a trilogy, I COULD say it's the...yeah, you guessed it...the Lord of the Rings...but that would be pretty weak, even for me.)
Norio Tsuruta is a reasonably good director, and this film's musical score stands out much more than those of its predecessors (although the first one is the only one with an ending credit song that doesn't suck). Perhaps most importantly: novelist Koji Suzuki, creator of the whole series, wrote the screenplay, so you can bet your ass that the events in the film are faithful to his ideas.
Last but certainly not least, the ending of Ring 0 is, "at a glance", quite sad; however, in light of the entire series, "quite sad" doesn't even begin to cover it. When you consider the details disclosed in the opening moments of Ring 2, the conclusion of this movie surely qualifies as one of the most horribly depressing endings in recent memory. That is simply a comment, not a complaint; the fact that the "gimmick" of these films is never-ending is crucial to its effectiveness. Still, the impact will be felt long after the crappy, mood-killing credit music has finished.
To my knowledge, Ring 0 is only available on DVD with English subtitles from the UK's Tartan Asia Extreme label; PAL format, no region coding.
NUMSKULL'S RATING: 6/10