A mysterious videotape warns that the viewer will die in one week unless a certain, unspecified act is performed. Exactly one week after watching the tape, four teenagers die one after another of heart failure.
Asakawa, a hardworking journalist, is intrigued by his niece’s inexplicable death. His investigation leads him from a metropolitan tokyo teeming with modern society’s fears to a rural Japan–a mountain resort, a volcanic island, and a countryside clinic–haunted by the past. His attempt to solve the tape’s mystery before it’s too late–for everyone–assumes an increasingly deadly urgency. Ring is a chillingly told horror story, a masterfully suspenseful mystery, and post-modern trip.
I have this game I play with myself—a game where I must search to find the scariest book out there. I don’t know if you’re like me, but I find that I can only be scared with movies. It might be the music in the background, or the fact that I watch them in the dark, at night, before bed. But movies, to me, can be scary. Put on The Shining and I’ll turn it off within 10 minutes of watching I’ll be so freaked out.
Books, on the other hand, don’t scare me. I pick up a novel now and again—a novel that vows it will terrify me—and I read the whole thing without losing a wink of sleep. Is it because there’s no scary music in the background? Is it because there’s no way I can read a book in the dark? No, it’s just that the person popping up out of the shadows scares me way more when portrayed in a movie, rather than when they’re described in a book.
When searching for that next great scary book, I picked up Ring, by Koji Suzuki. After I would make a claim of not being scared by a book, people would always refer me to this book and how utterly terrifying it is. Needless to say, I entered my reading having high hopes for Koji Suzuki’s creation.
Now, I saw the Americanized movie The Ring and I loved it. It’s one of those movies that I have to watch around Halloween because it’s such a favourite of mine. The fact that someone could die a week after watching a scary video? That’s scary to me. The girl crawling out of the TV to kill people? That’s scary to me.
Ring, however, was not scary for me. I don’t know if it’s because I adore the Americanized movie, or if it’s because it’s a book that has been translated from Japanese. While reading it, I thought something was lost in the translation. The writing seemed juvenile to me, too simple—and, at times, downright silly.
The thing that I liked about the movie is that everything tied up so nicely—it was very believable. The book, which follows newspaper reporter Asakawa as he tries to make sense of some sudden deaths that have been occurring, has so many events happening that just didn’t make sense to me. The chain of events leading up to the conclusion, the things that held the story together, seemed so farfetched to me that for most of the book I was shaking my head.
The characters weren’t fleshed out as much as I would have liked them to have been – this led me to not really connect with any of them, or to care about whether any of them died or not. The whole novel, in fact, had more of a detective-mystery feel to it—I didn’t see it fitting anywhere within the horror genre.
Perhaps Ring is more convincing in its native language. Or maybe Hollywood had it right when it made the movie. Heck, maybe the original Japanese movie had it right. All I can say is that if you’re looking for a scary read, Ring is not it. Perhaps for younger audiences, due to the style of writing, but if you’re a grown-up I’m sure there’s something better out there.
Maybe one day I’ll end up finding it.