Review: The Ring Virus [2000]

Dir. Kim Dong-bin

Cast: Shin Eun-gyeong, Jeong Jin-yeong, Bae Du-na

Originating from Ringu the Japanese horror novel by Koji Suzuki and the eponymous 1998 film by Hideo Nakata, this South Korean take is more or less a facsimile of 2002's US remake The Ring in as much as it is a remake that does little artistically to rationalize its existance at all. The Ring Virus tersely rehashes the prototype with a new cast, a new language, some praiseworthy moments and the integration of some of the novel’s plot points that were absent from the anteceding film. This adds up to an passable movie that may prove interesting for aficionados of the franchise (or for anybody curious in glimpsing how the same story can be filtered through the lens of contrasting filmmakers), but overall it is little more than a banal accomplishment.

When journalist Sun-joo's (Eun-gyeong) cousin is murdered under perplexing circumstances, Sun-joo discovers a disturbing video tape that is said to kill anyone who watches it after seven days have passed. Staunchly Sun-joo becomes resolute in her quest to unravel the enigma of the deadly videotape and stop the spread of the curse before it manifests across the world, to do this she must elicit the help of an ostracized neurologist if she has any hope of enduring to see the end of the week.

Dong-bin Kim's adaptation adheres more analogously to the novel, whilst at the same time liberally espousing motifs and components of Nakata's film and Suzuki's original novel. This convergence only succeeds in generating a curious hybrid version of the original story with some anachronistic and capricious changes thrown in. as if to stamp some kind of ownership on the piece by Kim. The whole venture is practically devoid of any alacrity and somehow manages to lack any form of cohesion and misses several of the refinements that Nakata brought to his 1998 version.

Now, even with my restricted exposure to Korean performers, the acting seems peculiarly below par, specifically when likened to the casts you regularly find in the films of Park Chan-Wook and his ilk. The actors in The Ring Virus are devoid of passion, homogeneously dull, consummately unlikable and impossible to sympathise with, which in a film based comprehensively on the threat to the lives of the characters, this is unforgivable. Collectivity the cast appear to be on autopilot, and the performances are just ponderous and listless, offering no spark to maintain the audience's attention.

It is patently apparent that Dong-bin Kim possesses no proficiency within the horror genre, his selection of colour palettes inclines more to sonorous hues and high contrast in a realm where muted, constrained colours and a monochromatic approach have already been demonstrated to be much more effective at imparting the kind of dread this subject matter demands. This is not to say the use of a Technicolor spectrum within horror is a detrimental thing, in the hands of quintessential directors, like Argento and Craven, can convey augmented depths to infernal moments, but sadly Kim seems more content with circumventing genuine shock moments entirely. The only reason his finale performs in the slightest is because it harvests directly from Nakata's version which was so felonious and puissant in its invention that even a cursory caricature can still have a marked effect on the viewer. Sadly everything about this adaptation is mishandled and misconceived.

Verdict: Essential for completists, everyone else avoid it at all costs.

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