East Goes West

Analytical US-style remake of slow-burning Japanese chiller

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DIRECTED BY Gore Verbinski

STARRING Naomi Watts, Martin Henderson

Opens February 21, Cert 15, 115 mins

In this remake of the cult Japanese horror film Ringu, Naomi Watts plays a hard-bitten investigative journalist and professional cynic who sets out to debunk the myth of a mysterious video tape that kills all who watch it exactly seven days afterwards. Rather recklessly, she watches it herself?it’s the kind of thing a first-year film student with an obsession with Un Chien Andalou might come up with. Pretentious, yes, but it hardly appears to be fatal. Then she begins to have doubts. This remake trades the woolly, esoteric logic of the Japanese version for a more forensic, analytical approach that serves the material well. Watts pairs up with her ex-husband, but instead of the moody psychic prone to visions in the Japanese version, he’s a no-nonsense documentary photographer. The pair of them rely on facts?it’s a desperate race against time to find the hard evidence that might save them both, not to mention their young son, who accidentally watches the tape. This remake also manages to include more detail to explain the provenance of the mysterious, vengeful spirit that inhabits the tape. As a result, the pacing?a series of mini-crescendos?is closer to that of a conventional US horror than the slow-burning discomfort of Japanese supernatural thrillers. And while sections of the film?the opening sequence for example?are virtually a shot-for-shot remake, there are some memorable additions to the story, particularly a disturbing scene where a horse goes suddenly and fatally berserk on a car ferry.

Hollywood remakes of foreign language films, particularly those with a large existing cult fan base, rarely ever live up to the original in the eyes of the people who saw them the first time around. So this remake probably won’t evoke the same sense of dread as the original, but it’s so competently and intelligently executed that it’s well worth watching anyway. Just don’t wait for the video release, unless you have nerves of steel.


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