Any good movie is going to get sequels, for better or worse. That includes "Ringu," the shocking modern horror classic that inspired "The Ring" and a lot of weedy-haired ghost girls.
One of the two sequels was "Rasen," adapted from Koji Suzuki's sequel, and "Ringu O," a prequel that tells the story of how Sadako became the monster of "Ringu." Well, together these two are a mixed bag -- the sequel is tedious and anticlimactic, but the prequel is a masterful chunk of eerie horror.
"Rasen" was actually filmed back-to-back with "Ringu," and it picks up immediately after the first movie's events. Pathologist Mitsuo Ando (Koichi Sato) is startled when his good friend Ryuji (Hiroyuki Sanada) is brought in, mysteriously dead. During the autopsy, he finds a piece of paper inside Ryuji's stomach. Though Ando is sunk in grief for the loss of his son, who drowned recently, he is intrigued by whatever killed Ryuji and his family.
He contacts Mai Takano (Miki Nakatani), Ryuji's assistant/girlfriend, and the two soon become close as they hunt for the secrets of the cursed videotape and the genetic encoding that is being transmitted through it. But when Mai watches the tape, something horrific happens -- and it returns the demon-woman Sadako to the world of the living...
Well, the movie was a bomb, mainly due to the scientific dissection of the curse, and the leaden direction. So they quickly filmed an independent, completely different sequel that ignores the events of "Rasen." Fortunately, "Ringu O" had no such problems, as it outlines the demon-girl's "coming of age":
Sadako Yamamura (Yukie Nakama) is a member of an acting troupe, and though she is pretty and quiet, the other actors don't like her. Then an actress dies unexpectedly, and Sadako takes over the lead part... except now more people are dying, and the survivors are blaming Sadako. The only one who doesn't is Hiroshi Tôyama (Seiichi Tanabe), who is falling in love with her.
To make matters worse, a reporter with a grudge against Sadako is nosing around, searching for evidence that Sadako killed several people... with her psychic powers. The acting troupe finally attacks Sadako, and travel to her childhood home. What they uncover is the OTHER Sadako, a horrific demon who is slowly overtaking her "good" half... and driving her to senseless murder.
Don't expect these two films to really have much to do with each other -- one is pure classic horror, and the other is more a weird cloning/timed-disease drama with some awkward sex scenes. Sure, "Rasen" may be taken from Suzuki's own novels, but "Ringu O" is the really impressive piece of work.
It certainly helps that Rasen lacks the horrific punch and sleek direction of the original movie. Most of the plot is Ando meandering around looking for clues, having sad sex with Mai, researching, and crying. Director Jôji Iida simply has no idea how to build tension and suspense, and so it ends up being leaden and emotionless, as well as terribly choppy. Even the creepy preapocalyptic finale can't really redeem the storyline.
Fortunately Norio Tsuruta keeps "Ringu O" from turning into a bad Japanese imitation of "Carrie," filling it with shadowy stages, eerie forests, and ruined houses, as well as the innocent, sweet romance between Sadako and Toyama. However, for all the deaths in here, the most horrible moments are the ones that show inexplicable hatred, doomed love, prejudice, and worst of all, destroying someone you love. And that creepy crunchy walk.
Similarly the actors range from mediocre to magnificent. Sato is a passable actor, able to handle Ando's calmer moments but not great emotion; and Nakatani is pretty good as the meek Mai, but absolutely laughable as Sadako. Nakama is a far better Sadako -- eerie, pretty, drifting around with her arms dangling down, while the handsome Tanabe is charming as her almost-boyfriend, who comes to a tragic end you can see coming miles away.
The lesser-known sequel and prequel to "Ringu" are collected in this two-pack, showing viewers the disappointing "Rasen" and the gorgeously creepy "Ringu O." Just skip right to the prequel.