The Ring Virus

The Ring Virus (1999)
Capital Entertainment
Cast: Shin Eun-Kyoung, Jeong Jin-Young

For those of you who aren’t familiar with ’The Ring’ phenomenon, it’s one of the biggest things to hit Japan in years. This horror tale began as a series of novels, and was then transformed into a TV movie. After that, a feature film was made in 1998, which solidified ’The Ring’ as Japan’s horror champ. Since that time, there have been several sequels (check out the story on ’Ring 0: Birthday’ in the latest issue of Fangoria), a TV mini-series, a video game, and a series of knock-offs. One of the strangest results from ’The Ring’ craze is an official remake of the film from Korea, entitled ’The Ring Virus’. (I wish that I had more information on how and why this film was made, but unfortunately, I do not.) And apparently, the infatuation with this story is continuing to spread as Dreamworks is now working on an American remake, from the writer of ’Scream 3’ and the director of ’Mouse Hunt’!

’The Ring Virus’ is an almost exact duplicate of the Japanese film ’The Ring’, but with some slight changes here and there. The basic story remains intact. The film opens with the mysterious death of a young girl. The victim’s aunt, here named Sun-joo and played by Shin Eun-Kyoung, begins to investigate the death and discovers that her niece wasn’t the only victim. She finds that the teens had viewed a strange videotape which bears a warning that anyone who views the tape will die in one week. Sun-joo then enlists an eccentric physician Dr. Choi (Jeong Jin-Young) to aid her in her investigation. Soon, they find themselves involved in a mystery, which will lead them across the country in search of a mysterious woman with long black hair.

As with the original ’The Ring’, ’The Ring Virus’ is a great example of psychological terror. The idea of a ’killer video’ make seem ridiculous, but within the confines of the story, you believe it, and as with the original, the ending packs quite a punch. (Although, the final scene of terror isn’t quite as creepy here.) I did find that ’The Ring Virus’ was easier to follow than ’The Ring’ (but, to be fair, the copy of ’The Ring’ which I saw had VERY questionable subtitles, so I may have missed part of the story), and this film focuses more on the origins of the tape, whereas in ’The Ring’ an urban legend about the tape already existed. I didn’t like the fact that the character of the reporter’s ex-husband had been changed to an unsympathetic doctor. The ex-husband character worked much better, as the reporter is also trying to protect her child (a boy in ’The Ring’,a girl here in ’The Ring Virus’). Director Kim Dong-Bin has shot ’The Ring Virus’ in a very kinetic style, with the camera rarely standing still, yet there isn’t as much tension as in ’The Ring’. So, overall, ’The Ring Virus’ isn’t quite as good as it’s predecessor, but as ’The Ring’ doesn’t appear to be available on DVD anywhere (that I can find), I will settle for ’The Ring Virus’ for now.

Having never seen a DVD from the Far East, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of ’The Ring Virus’. The film is presented in an anamorphic widescreen and has been letterboxed at 1.85:1. The picture is very sharp and clear, showing only a small amount of grain. However, there is a noticeable amount of defects from the source print, with scratches and white dots being evident throughout the film. The color reproduction on this DVD is quite good, with the blues and greens adding a great amount of depth to the picture. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack works quite well. The film is very quiet at times, only to have a musical sting or strange sound effect rip through the surround sound speakers. The dialogue is clear, although it gets a bit quiet at times. The subtitles are white and very easy to read, but it seems that towards the end, all of the helping verbs went on strike, so things get a bit jumbled. Overall though, this is a competently done DVD.