Ring 0: Birthday
Dir: Norio Tsuruta
Star: Yukie Nakama, Seiichi Tanabe, Masami Hashimoto, Daisuke Ban, Aso Kumiko
Cert / Year: 15 - R / 2000
Format: DVD R0

After the incident at the psychic demonstration by Shizuko Yamamura (Masako) in Tokyo, which tragically ended with the horrific and mysterious death of a reporter and the subsequent suicide of Shizuko several years later. Sadako, her daughter was raised and protected from prying eyes by her "father" Dr. Ikuma. Now in her late teens, Sadako (Yukie Nakama) pursues a career in acting and is accepted into a prominent drama troupe. Soon after her arrival, several cast members are dogged by identical bad dreams which seem to feature Sadako. Then in the midst of a rehearsal, one of the cast members mysteriously and inexplicably dies, with no clue other than a strange sound caught on a tape recorder at the time (yes, the same weird sound on the video tape). With the death of her fellow actress, the role is offered to Sadako who is eager for a chance in a starring role. With a member of the cast already dead some of her fellow cast members begin to resent her, but she is comforted by T˘yama (Seiichi Tanabe) her thoughtful boyfriend. Matters are worsened however when obsessive reporter Sh˘ko Miyaji (Yoshiko Tanaka) manages to track down the ever elusive Sadako to the theatre company. Miyaji has been relentlessly pursuing Sadako for years after the death of her fiance at Shizuko's demonstration, and her untimely arrival at the theatre inadvertantly sets into motion a series of tumultuous events which can only have one conclusion......

Don't let the fact that this is a "prequel" deter you from seeing this film, as this is not a George Lucas type of prequel. The film actually makes sense and covers events in the thirty years before the appearance of Sadako's dreaded video tape and the events of Ring. The story once again written by K˘ji Suzuki the author of the original movie plays on what the audience should already know after watching the first two films. Replacing the brilliant Hideo Nakada as director with Norio Tsuruta is a risky choice after the undisputed popularity and runaway success of Ring and Ring 2. But for the most part it seems to work as he sheds much of the intrinsically dark and oppressive atmosphere of it's predecessors in favour of a marginally lighter tone leading the film to "feel" more like a drama than a horror movie albeit a very broody one. The overrall direction is quite stylish if a little cliche at times but manages to maintain a spooky atmosphere. The main focus of the film is of course the beautiful young woman that Sadako has grown into. Troubled by visions and occasional blackouts whilst living in a constant fear of her powers and abilities, on top of the added burden of trying to engage in a romantic relationship. This is a stark comparison to the insidious and malignantly evil force that we have come to regard Sadako as and feared her for it.

As you would expect, the cast is superb and the daunting and unenviable task of bringing the beautiful young visage of Sadako to life is unerringly provided by the enchanting Yukie Nakama. Her portrayal is stunning as she conveys the anguish of someone coming to terms with being a social outcast and misfit whilst also being terrified by the dreadful power, she possesses much of which she doesn't yet understand. Good chemsitry with Seiichi Tanabe who also puts in a good performance (even if it is a little naive) as T˘yama. Good supporting cast and once again popular Japanese model Masako returns as Shizuko Yamamura and Daisuke Ban returns as Dr. Ikuma.

The film is lacking much of the tension and suspense of the first two films but it is nevertheless still able to draw the viewer in. At times the edgy story is a little reminiscent of Carrie as the story leans in that direction at several points. The film maintains some of it's more sinister attributes but without the video tape this time around it doesn't have quite the same capacity to unnerve you. Where the spine tingling image of the long haired and slightly stooped form of Sadako was previously confined within the video, held by the constraints of her "video curse" here she is very much alive and in the physical world......all the time. No one is safe as her powers are unbridled and unleashed, as if her evil presence wasn't enough to contend with in the first 2 films now you get the whole package to scare you witless. No television set to hold her back now. There are one or two decidedly unnerving moments but on the whole they aren't quite as effective as the earlier movies. Ring 0 on the whole lacks the intensity visually and narratively and atmosphere to really "get you" unlike it's predecessors but this being the the prequel to Ring for many viewers the sight of the malaevolent Sadako is enough to induce chills especially as the inevitable conclusion draws ever nearer (you'll have to see the movie to get what I mean).

All things considered this is a prequel and as such it isn't too bad at all and has some very creepy and occasionally scary set pieces but to really appreciate the film properly you will need to see Ring and Ring 2 first as much of this film is filling out or embellishing what has gone before. A must see for fans of the original movies and a good movie in it's own right, just not as intense or intimidating as Ring. Not that it makes the film less imposing or oppressive but it does lack some of the raw power of the original or the sequel.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Picture 1.85:1 Anamorphic Good quality image
Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 Generally good quality soundtrack
Features Couple of very basic filmographies
Cool semi-animated menus
Original Japanese trailers for; "Ring", "Ring 2" and "Ring 0"
Stills gallery from the film
Film notes by Mark Wyatt
Option to watch with or without English subtitles
Series of "Asia Extreme" Eastern Cinema trailers
Verdict A slightly better put together disc than the previous movies, but there is still nothing particuarly "special" on this disc. A good presentation of the film which has escaped "burned on subtitles" this time. A disc worth having purely to complete your "Ring" collection.

Rating: 2 out of 5

Reviewed by Logan Link Back Top Home