Also known as "The Ring". One of the most talked about horror films from Japan. Released in 1998 on a total budget of about $1.5 million, the film became the number 1 box office success in Japan, Hong Kong, and Singapore for that year.
Based on a series of novels by Suzuki Koji, the story centers on news reporter Asakawa Reiko (Matsushima Nanako) who investigates an urban legend that has spread like wildfire - a mysterious videotape that within a week kills anyone who has watched it. For Reiko, the investigation hits close to home as her niece dies mysteriously after supposedly watching said video.
The investigation leads to her finding a copy of the video and viewing the contents. Pretty soon, she finds herself on a race to solve the puzzle behind the video and, hopefully, break the curse - a curse that is brought on by a mysterious figure named Sadako.
The movie is not your typical horror film where gore takes center stage - in fact, the movie doesn't have a single drop of blood in it. Instead, it totally relies on psychological terror and makes the simplest scene seem sinister in nature. The ending is TRULY a scary thing as we discover the true nature of Sadako. Comparisons will be made to "The Blair Witch Project" but this film is much more intense (and not as vomit inducing).
A sequel was made for the movie as well as a prequel, both of diminished quality. Plus, a Korean version was made (called "The Ring Virus"), another Japanese take on the story was released ("Rasen"), and there was also a Japanese TV show based on the story. However, most people agree that the 1998 movie version is the best of the bunch and a standalone product.
Here's the unfortunate news...for residents in North America, you will probably find that the only copy of the film available is a VCD version which has Chinese subtitles only (there is a UK version with English subtitles but it won't play properly on North American machines). There are plans to turn out a Hollywood version of the story - in fact, Dreamworks has picked up the rights to it and a script is being put together.
So, if you're well versed in Japanese/Chinese, you'll get a kick out of the movie. If not, I suggest you bitch and complain to somebody influential to get a subtitled version for your viewing pleasure.
Believe me, you'll be freaked out by this movie.
Update 2002/10/30: Wow, it's been a while since I've revisited this old wu of mine but now that the American version of the film (directed by Gore Verbinski and starring Naomi Watts) has become popular, it would seem that more and more people are looking for copies of the original. Since the wu, there has been a release of the original movie on DVD with English subtitles. Unfortunately (again), the DVD is only available in the UK from Tartan and in PAL format. So, for North American residents, unless you've got a DVD player that can accept both NTSC and PAL formats, you're out of luck again.
Lucky for me, I've got an APEX AD-500 with All-Region, NTSC/PAL, and Macrovision off. Happy happy joy joy!
Update 2003/03/07: Dreamworks has now released a Region 1 DVD of Ringu, along with the release of the Hollywood remake.