Now, you might even have watched Ringu 2 and Ringu 0, and though they are good, they're not as great as the first one and didn't answer all the questions the original left. You know why that is? Because the following two movies were not adapted from the original books! After Ringu's huge success, the studio was in a hurry to put something out there with the label so fans would flock to the movie theater. At the time, the book sequels weren't even finished and that's why some airhead studio executive decided to concoct a story that featured the same characters and was freaky enough.
There are four books in the Ringu series, Ringu, Spiral, Loop, and Birthday. The first one pretty much follows the story you all know and love with a few key changes that will blow. your. mind. But I'll get to that in a few.
Spiral, the second in the series, manages to turn the whole story upside down without sounding completely ridiculous and steers the series into the sci-fi ground but still scaring the bejeezus out of you.
Then comes Loop. Here the saga has clearly become a sic-fi fest with a few scares. Imagine The Stand meets Tron. The third book is slow, confusing, and close to the end the premise was too far fetched for me to go with it.
I haven't read Birthday, mainly because of my dislike for Loop, but I'll get my copy soon enough and I'll let you know what I think of it.
For the sake of being thorough I'll review each book separately and you can make your own conclusions. But lets go back to the beginning...
RINGU by Koji Zuzuki
- Blurb: A mysterious videotape warns that the viewer will die in one week unless a certain, unspecified act is performed. Exactly one week after watching the tape, four teenagers die one after another of heart failure. Asakawa, a hardworking journalist, is intrigued by his niece's inexplicable death. His investigation leads him from a metropolitan Tokyo teeming with modern society's fears to a rural Japan--a mountain resort, a volcanic island, and a countryside clinic--haunted by the past. His attempt to solve the tape's mystery before it's too late for everyone assumes an increasingly deadly urgency. Ring is a chillingly told horror story, a masterfully suspenseful mystery, and post-modern trip.
As you can see, there are a few changes right off the bat. First, the reporter is a divorced man, not a woman, thus taking out the 'bad mother' taint the movies had. Zuziki makes clear emphasis on the striking difference between the metropolitan live where every modern idea thrives and superstition seems to have no place, against the countryside Japan, where every possible horror or ghost can lurk behind you. Details as such make the narrative easy to rely on and the suspense much more plausible. Little by little the reader steps into Zuzuki's web and soon you are devoured by the monster in the pages without questioning the chances for it to be real.
Asakawa is a very interesting character and most of the story is told through his eyes. Then he teams up with a Dr. who is supposedly one of the most brilliant minds in Tokyo, but has more than a few flaws. These two characters complement each other and Zuzuki uses the professor masterfully to hide information from the reader or to reveal the exact amount of truth in any given moment, perpetuating the sense of mystery and allowing his main character to be more human, as opposed to omnipotent, since he doesn't have all the answers and most of the time, is the last one to get it.
The central part of the book is, of course, the tape. Here the movie also took a few liberties that directly impacted on the final resolution of the story. Not only it is scarier in your mind's eye, but there's a reason for the tape to exist. And there was a saving-clause but someone erased it!
There will be a heck of a lot of surprises for those who saw the movie, as the second half of the story is completely different (and so much better). Of course, I won't ruin the final twist. I'll just say it is clever and gives resolution to every question the book raised, unlike the movie.
I recommend Ringu completely. It is smart, original, and spooky in a way that would cause Clive Barker to have nightmares. If you enjoyed the movie, you have to read the book. And if you didn't, I guarantee this time you'll get your money's worth.