I wasn’t looking forward to reviewing this for one simple reason: Ring scared the living daylights out of me. Admittedly I was watching on my own at two o’clock in the morning (good old Channel 4), but it was destined to scare me anyway. It was my first real foray into Japanese supernatural shenanigans, and I had no idea what was going to happen – to put it into context, previous ‘horror’ films I had seen included The House On Haunted Hill and A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. Exactly.
In these films there are no wise-cracking freaks with knives for hands who gradually gather a fan base over seven or eight films and then square off against some other poor American creation in a franchise-mashing bid for more dollars. There is very little ‘creepy’ (read: annoying) music. All we have is some seriously unnerving psychological nebulae, based on hearsay and ‘childish’ fears. If you like gore, zombies or slashers, I’m very happy to say – forget it.
I hate films which rely on shock to make you jump. It’s cheap, stupid and something you could achieve without needing to pay to go to the cinema. You will jump at all three of these, but feel humiliated when you realised what you jumped at – nothing. Ring‘s opening sequence is followed by the most innocuous of effects, and I nearly fell out of my chair. It’s just that kind of set-up.Dark Water, based on the short story of the same name, pretty much says it all. It’s about the dark, and water, and a ghost, and you’ll either think that makes the best thing since sliced bread or 98 minutes of complete boredom. The ending is the biggest bone of contention and you may not want to watch it all twice to ‘get it’, but you should. Both a story of loss and of things you can’t get rid of even if you wanted to, it works beautifully.
Finally there’s Premonition. The opening scene is appalling in the best sense of the word – a man knows his daughter is going to die but can do nothing about it. Further visions lead to a realisation that he could change the future…but, of course, it’s going to cost.
Sadly, this is the weakest of the three, and contains some of the gore the other two lack (if you’re not sure about that, watch the trailer and see whether you can stand the girl with her face ripped off). In that sense it’s not really a supernatural film as much as a standard ‘J-horror’ – which is a pity, as there were probably other choices which would have fitted the concept of this box-set more closely. Still, the ending saves it with a twist into the completely bizarre that is worth the wait.
Ring remains the most insidiously uncomfortable, but all of them are a squillion times better than their American remakes – good on Tartan for pointing that one out. Playing on your worst fears, providing your worst fears don’t involve aliens or men with knives for hands, all of them should grip you for for long after you’ve finished watching.