Ringu 0 – Bâsudei (Birthday) (2000)

Ringu 0: Bâsudei is a prequel to the popular Ringu series of Japanese films, which later became The Ring series here in the US. The Japanese film Ringu was remade as The Ring. The first Japanese sequel (Rasen) was a box office failure. Later, Ringu 2 (in Japan) and The Ring 2 (in US), apparently unrelated, were both released. Bâsudei translates to “birthday”, and as a prequel, Ringu 0 tells the pre-“well” story of Sadako (Samara, in the US), before things went really bad. The Ring 3 is slated to be released in 2007 and is rumored to be a remake of Ringu 0. Confused? Not as much as I was, after watching this movie.

In Ringu 0, Sadako Yamamura isn’t the creepy ghost killer we know from the later Ring films but instead a shy, introverted teen desperate to blend in with her peers. In the beginning of the film we learn that Sadako’s elementary school classmates all drowned on a school outing to the sea. Later, all the attendees at a press conference Sadako attends keel over after being near her. Sadako then joins a college acting troupe and sure enough, before long her fellow actors begin dropping like flies. The end of the film becomes a race against the clock with the troupe trying to stop Sadako before she stops them the hard way.

Save for character differences, the plot of Ringu 0is remarkably similar to Stephen King’s Carrie. Both stories feature young women with telekinetic powers that they don’t have much control over and flare up when they get really pissed off. The only difference is in the final ten minutes of Ringu 0, where the evil Sadako harnesses her power and proceeds to do bad, bad things with it.

If you’re not used to it, Japanese horror is difficult to get into. The plot of Ringu 0 lumbers along painfully slow, and the director goes to great lengths to villify anyone who gets whacked before they go so it’s tough to feel sorry for anyone who doesn’t make it to the finish line. I’d call Ringu 0 “interesting” over “good” or “entertaining.” There’s nothing in it about “the tape” at all, and in trying to explain what makes Sadako tick they drive viewers away from the creepiness the original films had. In fact, other than a couple of shots near the end of the film, it’s tough to even classify the prequel as a horror film. Again, excluding the end, it’s not particularly scary nor violent. It’s as if the writers said, “huh, I wonder what it would be like if Sadako was human and went to college.” After watching Ringu 0, now I know.

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