Rasen (1998)

Director: Joji Iida

Starring: Koichi Sato, Miki Nakatani, Hinao Saeki, Hiroyuki Sanada

Also known as: The Spiral (UK)

“You can’t even slit your own wrist. How are you supposed to perform an autopsy on me?” (Ryuji, Rasen)

(Spoilers for Ringu below)

While both the Japanese and American versions of The Ring and its sequels were big successes among horror fans, Rasen became the black sheep in the series. The sequel to Ringu, both films were oddly released on the same day because the story was already well-known in Japan (imagine they’d released the first two Harry Potter films on the same day: this was the Japanese equivalent). Ringu became a huge worldwide success while Rasen died on its arse and was forgotten about, to the extent that a different sequel to Ringu (Ringu 2) was released a year later.

Rasen takes place immediately after the events of Ringu. Pathologist Dr Ando has been assigned the task of performing an autopsy on his friend Ryuji to determine the cause of his death. After finding a message on a piece of paper secreted in Ryuji’s stomach he soon uncovers the mystery of Sadako Yamamura’s curse tape which kills people seven days after they view it. However, after watching the tape, it soon becomes clear to Ando that Sadako has other plans for him. Joining up with Takano Mai (Ryuji’s student girlfriend in the first film), Ando tries to solve the tape’s riddle.

"My jacket zip was caught on something, so I just yanked it down. Last time I do that"

Despite the critical blasting Rasen has received, I didn’t think it was too bad. It certainly goes in a different direction from Ringu, with Sadako having plenty of screen time and having chats at times with some of the characters. She even has a sex scene, so that should give you some idea as to how her character has changed. Anyone expecting another chilling Japanese horror film will be bitterly disappointed with Rasen, and I think this is why it has received the unfair treatment it has.

Granted, it’s no Citizen Kane, but it’s a nice little film that gives an alternative progression of the events after Ringu. It was good to see Sanada returning as Ryuji, even if it was only for the occasional flashback or dream sequence. I suppose you can only do so much with a corpse.

One thing potentially troublesome about the film however is that the classic ending to Ringu is practically forgotten about. The conclusion is made at one point that the tape transmits a strange smallpox virus to the watcher, which takes seven days to kill you. This is emphasised by a number of characters throughout the film coughing and getting rashes on the backs of their necks. It’s somewhat strange that this never happened in the first film, though it’s probably a good thing because we’d have missed out on that classic TV-crawling scene.

Also odd is the ending. Perhaps it loses something in the translation, but I was left confused and ultimately having to come to my own conclusions as to its meaning. Although it is sometimes not a bad thing for a film to have an ambiguous ending (Donnie Darko springs to mind), this is not the case for all films and in Rasen it just felt bewildering.

Still, despite this it’s probably one to see if you’re a fan of the Ring cycle, if only to see what Ringu 2 could have been had this received more praise when it was released.

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