The Ring Virus (1999)

Director: Dong-Bin Kim

Starring: Eun-Kyung Shin, Doonah Bae

“The time has passed! We are winner the game!” (Choi, The Ring Virus)

You’re probably aware of The Ring, the American remake of the Japanese blockbuster Ringu, but before that Korea had a crack at it with The Ring Virus, a film that is interesting if a little disappointing.

The plot is similar to that of the original version of the film. A female journalist decides to investigate the deaths of four teenagers who mysteriously died at the same time. It emerges that they all watched a strange video tape exactly seven days before their deaths. Intrigued, the journalist watches the tape (as does her ex-lover and her daughter) and thus begins a race against time to solve the tape’s hidden secret.

Obviously being a Korean film the character names have changed. Female Journalist Reiko Asakawa/Rachel Keller is now Sun-ju, her ex-husband Ryuji/Noah is now Choi Yeol and the creepy Sadako/Samara has been renamed Eun-suh. Replace the annoying too-smart-for-his-own-good son with an annoying too-smart-for-her-own-good daughter and your Korean remake is complete.

Bob wasn't a fan of Vanessa Feltz's Playboy photoshoot.

The whole film gives off a strangely calm vibe, as if your death at the end of your seven-day deadline isn’t actually that bad. Whereas Ringu/The Ring had corpses with faces displaying either sheer terror or grotesquely warped features, the dead folk in The Ring Virus seem to just sit there bored.

The characters are also ultimately unlikeable. In Ringu, Ryuji (the main male character) doubted the existence of the tape but took little persuasion to be convinced, and in The Ring, Noah didn’t believe it until he saw himself smudged in a security camera, The Ring Virus has Choi Yeol, the most annoying prick in the history of film. I don’t care if he is the hero male, I will never like this man.

A trick like this will make you the life and soul of any party.

The Korean version of the cursed tape looks like shit (however the accompanying sound effects are excellent, much better than the “bees” sound from the Ringu tape and the sound of Samara singing in the US remake tape. It also stays faithful to the book by providing a message at the end that says “if you watch this tape, seven days later you will die. To prevent the curse you must…” with the end taped over by a TV programme. While that happened in the book, the Japanese and US film versions left it out.

The ending of the Japanese film is also intact, and is actually handled slightly better until the bit where the ghost shows the “eye”. You know that trick where someone turns their eyelid inside out? That’s all they’ve really done here. It really isn’t horrific in anyway and instead of being a great ending to a interesting film it ends up as a weak ending to a boring film that’s badly acted on top of it.

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Basically, the whole film lacks emotion. Even as the final famous death takes place, the victim does not look scared for his life. Instead, he seems somewhat bored with the whole thing and is probably imagining what his next TV or movie role will be (and judging by the quality of his acting throughout, he’d be lucky to star in a tampon commercial).

In all, The Ring Virus is an adequate and by-the-books attempt at adapting the Ringu storyline, but when you have a book and two films out there that do the same job infinitely better, this really isn’t worth wasting your time with. It’s worth a watch if you’re interested in seeing a different take on the source material, but of the three versions of The Ring this is by far the weakest.

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