Ring is a novel by Koji Suzuki about a cursed videotape that kills anyone who watches it in seven days. Kazuyuki Asakawa, a journalist at a major Tokyo newspaper, discovers the cursed videotape when his niece and three of her friends fall victim to it, and he traces the origin back to a resort cabin they shared, there he finds and watches the tape, and suddenly has a seven day deadline to figure out how to survive its deadly curse.The novel may have been inspired by two M. R. James ghost stories; notably 'The Mezzotint' and another one, 'Martin's Close', about a murdered girl in a lake who returns to wreak vengeance from beyond the grave. Physical appearance of the baleful spirit closely resembles an onryo, a traditional Japanese type of ghost on which The Other Wiki has more here.Also, some books on psychic phenomena mention a Japanese woman (first name Shizuko) who perfomed 'spirit photography' on stage in the early 20th century.The novel has been adapted to film three times in Japan, America, and Korea (In all three film adaptations the main character is changed from a man to a woman) with varying levels of success. The Korean film is the closest to the book. There was also a TV series, a radio drama, and a video game.Sequels and prequels to both the novel and movies exist, and follow wildly divergent continuities from one another.The novels:
Birthday (Short story collection; including a prequel to Ring, a P.O.V. Sequel to Spiral and a sequel to Loop)
S, in which Sadako 3D is based
The Japanese movies:
Ring 0: Birthday (A prequel to the previous movies)
Ringu: Jiko ka! Henshi ka! Yottsu no inochi o ubau shôjo no onnen (A TV adaptation made by Fuji Network 3 years before the more well-known film. Notable for keeping Asakawa male, and for casting a softcore porn actress as Sadako and having her frequently get naked.)
This curse film and novel series provides examples of:
Abusive Parents: In the American remake, where Samara's uncontrollable power ostracized her to her own parents (who eventually killed her because of them.)
Averted in the Japanese films - the first two films would have you believe that Dr. Ikuma threw Sadako down the well out of malice. In fact, Ring 0 reveals that he did it as a last, desperate resort to stop her evil powers. He is extremely reluctant to do it, and he immediately breaks down sobbing after he pushes her in.
Achilles Heel: The video tape counts as Sadako's and Samara's. If a cursed victim watches the tape, but does not show it to someone else before they die then the curse cannot be continued...unless they leave their copy where someone else can happen across it.
Actor Allusion: Brian Cox plays Richard Morgan, whose wife killed herself because their (adopted) child's uncontrollable psychic powers burned horrific images into her mind. One year later, in X2: X-Men United, Brian Cox plays William Stryker, whose wife killed herself because their (mutant) child's uncontrollable psychic powers burned horrific images into her mind.
And I Must Scream: Sadako was sealed inside the well when she was a young adult, however Ring 2 reveals that she was in her 40s when she died. There are many theories as to why she took that long to die (including the use of a Healing Factor, The Power of Hate, etc.), but the fact remains that she was trapped down there, in the dark, for 30 years. Ouch.
Animals Hate Him: Rachel, apparently contaminated by the cursed tape, terrifies a horse on a boat so much that it breaks out of its stall and leaps overboard to its death.
Anyone Can Die: Very few characters survive the series, in fact only around four characters survive the films, excluding Rasen since characters are resurrected.
Arc Words: From the first American remake: "I'm sorry. It won't stop."
Asshole Victim: Dr. Emma Temple in The Ring Two. True what happens might be a bit harsh, but she is easily the least sympathetic victim in the American films.
Aiko Hazuki, the first on-screen victim in Ring 0, is a stuck-up, arrogant and downright mean actress who regards Sadako as little more than dirt. As with Dr. Temple, she doesn't exactly deserve what happens to her, but she is a very unsympathetic character.
Jake from the American "Rings" mockumentary is this as well. Yes, he's still sympathetic as he plagued by the supernatural but he coldly attempts a nice girl who had a crush on him to pass the curse onto her. To make it even worse when he's talking to his so-called friend, he refers to her as "some stupid chick." Jerk Ass Woobie indeed.
Author Appeal: One of the driving forces behind Asakawa's character in the novel is his relationship with his daughter. The author is a leading advocate of stronger father/daughter relationships in Japanese society.
Even though he has his creepy moments, Yoichi is generally a helpful and sweet little kid... until the events with the cursed tape, not to mention the fact that Sadako's influence gives him similar powers to hers. In Ring 2, when his mother dies, he is understandably pissed.
Big "NO!": Rachel, when she discovers Aiden watching the tape.
Blessed with Suck: Sadako's miraculous psychic abilities brought her, and everyone around her, more grief than they were worth.
Break the Cutie: Sadako in both the novels and the films. Not to mention Yoichi, and poor Etsuko from Ring 0.
Heck, several of Sadako and Samara's victims earn this status.
Brown Note: The video tape kills anyone who watches it within seven days. Extended in the novels where a journal on the tape becomes a carrier for the curse.
Came Back Wrong: Well, sort of. It is heavily implied that those killed by Sadako become malevolent spirits under her control, as the first movie demonstrates when Tomoko's spirit tells Yoichi to watch the tape. Ryuji later expresses his belief that "she isn't Tomoko any more".
Continuity Reboot / Canon Discontinuity: After the first movie was made, it was immediately followed up with a "forgotten" sequel, Rasen (aka Spiral), that was very badly received (though it is recognised as being a lot more faithful to the book, it didn't work as a sequel to the movie due to having a very, very different feel). It was quickly discounted from the series' canon. Eventually, Ring 2 was made, and is considered to be the official sequel.
Cool Horses: The Morgans had famous racing horses, until the horses killed themselves, making them even more famous.
Creepy Child: The young Sadako, and Samara and Aiden in the American remake.
Yoichi could also count - especially in the second movie.
Doomed by Canon: Anyone watching Ring 0 with prior knowledge to Sadako's fate (which, of course, is the idea) knows she'll end up down the well by the ending.
Downer Ending: Ring 0: Birthday. Yes, we all knew it was coming, what with it being a prequel and all, but it doesn't make it any less heartbreaking.
Driven to Suicide: In the Japanese version, Shizuko killed herself by throwing herself into a volcano after she went crazy, prior to the events of the movie. In the US version, Anna threw herself off the edge of a cliff, again, prior to the events of the movie. Unlike Shizuko's death, which is offscreen, Anna's death is shown in Samara's tape.
Eureka Moment: Reiko has one in the first film, when she realises that the phone only rings at the cabin.
The Faceless: Sadako - in the first movie, even as a child, her face is always either completely or partially obscured by her long hair, and only her eye is seen peering through the curtain of her hair at the first film's climax. It isn't until the second movie that her wrinkly, rotted features are seen for the first time. In the US remake, Samara's face is shown throughout most of the first movie, but is obscured during the ending scene with Noah.
The mysterious Enigmatic Minion referred to as the Towel Man never shows his face, nor is his identity ever revealed. It has been guessed he is either Ryuji Takayama or Hiroshi Toyama (or possibly even both), or a symbolic reference to the unknown identity of Sadako's father in the films.
Facial Horror: Sadako and Samara's victims - their faces are frozen in grotesque, silent screams (and, in the case of Samara's victims, their faces are distorted and look like they've been rotting for some time). In addition, there's the rotted face of Sadako herself as seen during the climax of Ring 2, and Samara's rotting face as a ghost.
A Fate Worse Than Death: Okazaki's fate, as of the end of Ring 2: Being haunted for the rest of his life by Kanae, whom he allowed to die by not copying and passing on the tape.
Fingore: Sadako and Samara's fingers are lacking nails, due to repeated (failed) attempts to climb out of the well. In particular, Sadako's nail-less fingers are shown in extreme closeup in the first movie. In the first American movie, Samara's cursed tape features images of twitching severed fingers in a box, and a finger being impaled on a tack so that the whole nail is pushed loose.
Foot Focus: Both Sadako (especially in Ring 0) and Samara.
Freak Out: Etsuko in Ring 0. It lasts until her death.
Freeze Frame Bonus: In both the first Japanese and US versions. Just watch carefully during subsequent re-runs of the tape, when they are being studied. For the briefest of moments, Sadako/Samara's hand can be seen coming from the well, which definitely was not there when Reiko/Rachel first viewed the tape. Later, when Yoichi/Aidan watches the tape, it goes even further, showing a brief glimpse of Sadako/Samara's head (note that this seems to be due to Reiko/Rachel coming in and viewing the tape's end - these moments imply that those who watch the tape more than once get a little bit more each time).
In the first US movie, a silhouette of Samara can be seen on the TV as it slides down towards Rachel, just before it knocks her into the well. After the horses leap off the ship to be killed, the ring itself flickers onscreen for a brief second.
Healing Hands: Sadako's "good" side has this power, as evidenced when she uses them to help a disabled man to walk again.
Hermaphrodite: Sadako, in the novel (not the movies), has Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome. Basically, she is genetically male (and has external testicles), but looks and identifies as female.
Heroic BSOD: Mai has one in the first movie, after discovering Ryuji's corpse. Reiko finds her in a state of shock and unmoving in Ryuji's apartment, even after his body has been taken away. She snaps out of it in time for the sequel. Reiko later has a small one when she returns to her own apartment, simply slumping into a chair for a while. She snaps out of it when she discovers just why she survived and Ryuji didn't.
Hope Spot: In the both versions, Reiko/Rachel finds Sadako's/Samara's body and removes it from the well. It's treated like they exorcised the curse, but this is not the case...
Ironic Echo: One of the most striking images on the American version of The Tape is Anna, Samara's adoptive mother, throwing herself off a cliff. In The Ring Two, Rachel escapes Samara's dreamworld by doing the same thing, in the same pose, from the same cliff.
Lampshade Hanging: The multitudinous adaptations of the novel are lampshaded by Sadako in the second novel, Spiral, where the events of the first have been dramatised from Asakawa's notes, and adapted to every form under the sun. And they allcarry the curse.
Marionette Motion: Sadako moves like this as a ghost and when in "evil" mode during the climax of Ring 0. Her unnatural walking effect at the end of the first film was achieved by having Rie Inou walk backwards with the scene filmed in reverse.
Mind Rape: Both Sadako and Samara love doing this to their victims, even the ones who haven't actually seen the tape, and even the ones who have been spared from the curse. Most notable is Masami from the first movie, who, after witnessing Sadako coming for her friend, goes insane and is sent to a mental institution. From that point on, she can't even stand to look at a television. Not only that, but exposure to Sadako has even granted her access to frightening psychic powers that she can barely control.
Mood Whiplash: Used rather cruelly at the end of Ring 0. Sadako is thrown down the well by a weeping Dr. Ikuma. Suddenly, the mood changes to an altogether calmer and more peaceful one, as Sadako wakes up, with her love interest Toyama standing over her, telling her it was all just a dream... then the mood shifts back again just as rapidly, with Sadako at the bottom of the well, realising to her horror that this is no dream, that Toyama is dead at her hands, and her adoptive father has just pushed her down a well. Then the concrete cover starts to go over the top of the well as she stands there and screams, and screams, and screams.Cue the waterworks.
My God, What Have I Done?: In Ring 0, Sadako is found sobbing uncontrollably after killing all the members of the theatre troupe, as well as Toyama.
Naomi Watts: Star of the American remake, and appeared in the sequel due to her contract. She'll be sitting the third film, which (by all accounts) will be a prequel, out.
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Much more evident in the Japanese novels and films: Sadako's influence was limited to the immediate area surrounding the well, and even then, only to material that she could affect with her Psychic Powers. Asakawa's report spread her influence to any kind of media that described his investigation, including literature, film, audio... In the American continuity, it is strongly hinted that "helping" Samara and removing her from the well allowed her to directly haunt Rachel and possess living people.
Also, in Ring 2, Okazaki doesn't watch, copy and pass on the tape, in spite of promising Kanae (who had watched and copied it) that he would. This could be interpreted as either cowardice on his part, or perhaps as a way of attempting to halt the curse (or maybe even both). However, after Kanae's demise, she returns as a vengeful spirit to haunt Okazaki and drive him insane, and it is also implied that this starts an entirely new curse.
Nightmare Face: Present in both the Japanese and US versions, although the faces in the US version are considerably more distorted.
Offing the Offspring: In the movie version, Sadako is thrown down a well by her own (adoptive) father. For Samara, her American counterpart, her birth mother and adoptive mother both tried to kill her (the second one even succeeded).
Parental Abandonment: Sadako's mother threw herself into a volcano after a public manifestation of Sadako's powers. Samara's mother threw herself off a cliff some indeterminate time after killing Samara. In the Japanese movie, Asakawa decides that the best way to save her son is to show the Cursed Video to her own, willing parents, and then she dies in the sequel so her son carries on for her (novel-version Asakawa chooses his wife's parents instead, but they all die in a crash anyway.)
Platonic Cave: Terror's Realm. What Meg perceives as the [RING] program is actually the real world; the mundane world with no monsters is humanity-wide projection brought on by Sadako.
Psychic Powers: Sadako and Samara obviously have them, as does Shizuko. Ryuji also possesses them to a degree, and Yoichi later gains them (although it is implied that he inherited mild powers from his father, it is strongly implied that he gained even stronger, deadlier powers from Sadako's influence). Mai also seems to similar powers to Ryuji, to an extent. Masami is also revealed to have gained some in Ring 2, due to coming into contact with Sadako after the latter had killed Tomoko.
Retcon: A flashback in the first film appears to show Sadako curiously peering into the well, before Dr. Ikuma sneaks up on her to push her down the well. She's also wearing shoes. Ring 0, however, shows that Sadako was drugged and chased to the well instead, whilst barefoot.
Revenge / Roaring Rampage of Revenge: This is Akiko's primary reason for investigating Sadako in Ring 0 - the man she killed at Shizuko's demonstration all those years ago was, in fact, Akiko's fiancé.
Also, near the end of Ring 0, after merging with her evil half, Sadako kills all of the members of the theatre troupe, due to their actions mentioned in Moral Event Horizon on the YMMV page.
Running on All Fours: Well, not so much running as moving at a creepy pace, but this is how Sadako / Samara exit the well on the tape.
Sealed Evil in a Can: Sadako was trapped in a well by her own father for the explicit reason of preventing her from hurting other people with her power. Contrast this with Samara, whose foster mother decided to simply kill her outright.
She's a Man in Japan: Sadako is intersex in the novels; this is completely dropped for Sadako in the movies and Samara in the remake.
Interestingly, it was maintained for Terror's Realm.
Shout Out: The ending of the first movie, depicting Reiko driving towards an oncoming storm, is a visual reference to the ending of The Terminator.
Shrug of God: In the American remake, fans of the film note that the victims of Samara look like they'd been drowned, which would make sense considering Samara's predicament. However, both Gore Verbinski and makeup FX artist Dick Smith said that wasn't their intention. They just wanted to make them look creepy.
Further reinforced by the montage near the end showing Samara's victims, with the repeat of Richard Morgan's line: "You take one person's tragedy and force the world to experience it... spread it like sickness."
Smug Snake: Dr. Emma Temple in The Ring Two, a cold and smugly superior psychiatrist played by Elizabeth Perkins, who brings an energy to the character that makes it truly easy to hate her. Her death definitely confirms her Smug Snake status. She succumbs instantly to a Jedi Mind Trick to commit suicide implying she is so Weak Willed Samara can just control her directly rather than rely on Mind Rape like all her other victims.
Spooky Photographs: If a photo is taken of someone who has watched the tape, their faces appear blurred and distorted. In addition, Ring 2 explores the concept of spirit photography - photos taken of Masami after being committed to a mental institution reveal the appearance of the "Towel Man". Later, when Okazaki is committed to the same hospital, his photos apparently show something spooky, but the audience never gets to see them.
Something Completely Different: The third novel is not often talked about (hardly mentioned on this page even) likely because it moves away from the Sadako curse horror story and extends into science fiction. In great detail it practically retcons the events of the first two novels as being part of a virtual world experiment. The Ring Virus in the virtual world is seen as a equivalent to a new form of cancer in the real world, and the protagonist has to utilize this to save his wife.
Stairs Are Faster: Rachel is racing to warn Noah that Samara has not been put to rest and is after him. When she arrives at his apartment she tries to use the elevator, but gets frustrated by the delay and runs up the stairs instead.
Unsettling Gender Reveal: Nagao Jotaro, the doctor who tries to rape Sadako in the novels gets this when he learns Sadako has Testicular Feminization Syndrome.
Urban Legends: In the Japanese series the tape itself has earned this status, which explains why some of the kids' descriptions of the tape are so different from what is actually shown on the tape - they heard it from a friend who heard it from a friend, and so on. As a result of the tape's status, Reiko and Okazaki discuss various other famous Japanese urban legends, including a reference to Kuchisake-Onna.
It's also acquired this status in the American franchise even before the second movie. The first victim in The Ring Two was a guy who joined one of several groups that dare people to watch the video then get someone else to watch it within seven days. Conveniently enough, these groups are called "Rings".
Working With The Ex: In the Japanese version, Reiko works with her estranged husband Ryuji to solve the mystery of the cursed videotape and save the life of their son. In the US version, Rachel works with her ex-boyfriend Noah to do the same.
Yank the Dog's Chain: Sadako is pushed down the well by Dr. Ikuma but awakens to find herself in bed with Toyama watching over her. Just as she goes to reach him, it is revealed that it was a dream and she can only scream as she is sealed in the well.
Samara suffers this in The Ring Two. She possesses Aidan to get a mother, only to be drugged by Rachel, exorcised from Aidan's body, and then re-sealed in the well.