Reviewed by Andrew Kasch
Written by Denis Meikls
Published by Titan Books
As time goes on and horror fans continue to debate the qualities of Asian cinema, one simple fact remains: Hideo Nakata’s Ring (not Ringu, as it’s erroneously dubbed in America) is still the single most influential horror film in over a decade. If this just sounds like hyperbole, then you’d do well to pick up The Ring Companion – author Dennis Meikle’s comprehensive guide to the J-horror phenomena.
Since its inception as a best-selling novel, Ring has spawned more adaptations, sequels, and remakes in a shorter period than any franchise in history. To this day, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who has experienced them all, which makes this book such an impressive read.
To call the author’s research thorough is an understatement: Meikle explores the history of horror through all mediums and cultures and explains how it helped shape Nakata’s 1998 film, which in turn changed the face of cinema forever. His observations and arguments (especially in regards to the never-ending “Ring vs The Ring” debate) are so well constructed, that even detractors will have a hard time disputing them.
Using a clever “seven chapter” outline, he delves into every faucet of the Ring cycle; each novel and film gets due time here. Meikle cites influences, recounts behind-the-scenes stories, and analyzes the mythology in great detail. He even goes so far as to critique the numerous trends and knock-offs that appeared in the wake of Ring’s success. If that weren’t enough, the book concludes with an insightful analysis of “the famous final scene” as it appears from script-to-screen in every single version.
Meikle intergrates countless interviews in each chapter; novelist Koji Suzuki, Hideo Nakata, Gore Verbinski, Ehren Kruger, and Naomi Watts are all quoted here. Their contributions add a wealth of information to the book and they even spill a few jaw-dropping revelations (Nakata cites Exorcist II as a major influence!!!).
The book’s only flaw comes from its timing: Meikle only dedicates a few pages to Nakata’s U.S. debut, The Ring Two, exploring the troubled production before dismissing the entire project as a “hackneyed entry.” Given the recent release of the re-edited Unrated Version on DVD (which managed to shed some light on the director’s original vision), it would’ve been interesting to see him compare and contrast the two versions. Since we probably haven’t heard the last from this franchise (which is clearly stated in the book’s epilogue), we can only hope Meikle will explore this in some future edition.
Whether or not you’re a fan, The Ring Companion is guaranteed to make you view these films in a whole new light. Meikle isn’t just an expert on Ring, he’s an expert on all-things horror, which makes this one of the most definitive books about the genre.
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