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Literature / The Ring

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Everyone will suffer.

The Ring is a series of novels by Japanese writer Koji Suzuki that details a mysterious curse caused by a woman named Sadako Yamamura. 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 Wikipedia has more here. Also, some books on psychic phenomena mention a Japanese woman (first name Shizuko) who performed "spirit photography" on stage in the early 20th century.

The series has been adapted several times in different medias, most notably films, but also TV, radio drama, and video games in Japan, North America, and South Korea. While uniformly thriller, the novels have a more science fiction slant, whereas the adaptations tend to lean more on the Horror part. Indeed, the 1998 Japanese film adaptation has been credited for launching the popularity of J-Horror worldwide, while its 2002 American remake was the cause for the so-called "J-Horror remake craze" in the United States in the 2000s.


The novels:

  • Ring (1991)
  • Spiral (1995) - The direct sequel to Ring.
  • Loop (1998) - The third story, known for completely changing the way readers see the story.
  • Birthday (1999) - Short story collection; including a prequel to Ring (Lemon Heart), a P.O.V. Sequel to Spiral (Coffin in the Sky) and a sequel to Loop (Happy Birthday).
  • S (2012) - The fourth story, a follow-up to Spiral.
  • Tide (2013) - The fifth story, follow-up to Loop.

The Japanese TV series:

  • Ring: The Final Chapter (1999) - An adaptation of the first novel, but takes a lot of liberties with the story.
  • Rasen (1999) - The sequel series, adapting the second novel but again taking liberties and introducing a subplot involving a cyberterrorist called the King of Terror, who plans to use Sadako's videotape to destroy the world.

The Japanese movies:

  • Ring: Kanzenban (1995) - A Made-for-TV movie and the first adaptation of the Ring novel. Notable for keeping Asakawa male, as well as for casting a softcore porn actress as Sadako and having her frequently get naked.
  • Ring (1998) - An adaptation of the first novel that heavily emphasized the supernatural horror elements of the story.
  • Rasen (1998) - aka Spiral, an adaptation of the second novel. In a strange marketing decision, it was released as a double-bill with “Ring”, but it followed the opposite approach, focusing more on the sci-fi aspects of its source material. The result being that “Ring” was preferred BY FAR to this, its original sequel.
  • Ring 2 (1999) - Another sequel to Ring, ignoring the events of Rasen and instead following an original story.
  • Ring 0: Birthday (2000) - An adaptation of Lemon Heart, one of the short stories in Birthday.
  • Sadako 3D (2012) - A Continuity Reboot to the Japanese series. Very loosely based on S.
  • Sadako 3D 2 (2013) - A sequel to Sadako 3D.
  • Sadako vs. Kayako (2016) - A crossover with Ju-on.
  • Sadako (2019) - Loosely based on Tide.

The American movies:

  • The Ring (2002) - A faithful remake of the Japanese adaptation of Ring.
  • Rings (2005) - A short film based in-between the first and second films.
  • The Ring Two (2005) - Sequel to The Ring and follows an original story. Directed by the Japanese films' creator Hideo Nakata.
  • Rings (2017) - A sequel to The Ring Two.

The South Korean movie:

  • The Ring Virus (1999) - The only South Korean adaptation. Gender Flip aside, its story is the most faithful to the Ring novel.


  • Sadako at the End of the World (2019) - A series about two girls who befriend Sadako after finding the tape in post-apocalypse ruins.
  • Sadako-san and Sadako-chan (2019) - A series about Sadako being befriended by a little girl also named Sadako, who helps her adjust to the modern world since TV's and videotapes have been replaced by digital screens.

The video games:

Related works:

The franchise provides examples of:

    The novel series 
  • Achilles' Heel: The novel actually plays with the "you won't die if you copy the tape and show it to someone else" shtick that has been done to death in the adaptations.
    • The original way to save yourself is indeed the case. Kazuyuki manages to save himself this way — unwittingly — when he copies the tape and shows it to Ryuji. However, when he attempts to do the same to save his wife and daughter, it doesn't work. It turns out that because the four kids who watched the tape had erased the part where the video gave the solution, the virus mutated when Kazuyuki copied the tape for Ryuji. Kazuyuki was spared not because he made Ryuji watch it, but because he helped the virus proliferate and find more victims, namely by writing a journal which his brother eventually turns into a book. As a result, the virus killed off Shizu and Yoko even though they had copied the tape, because they didn't add something that would help the virus proliferate.
    • In Loop, Kaoru was born into the real world with the virus, but it separated from him when it infected a bacteria and caused the Metastatic Human Cancer Virus. The mutation accidentally made Kaoru immune to the cancer strain, so when he reenters into the LOOP, he is able to create a cure from his genes which neutralizes the ring virus once and for all.
    • S reveals that Kaoru/Kashiwada managed to neutralize Asakawa's printed journal by replacing the cover with a printed version of the cure. As for those books which already had the original cover, well, he simply rounded them up and burned them. Infectious or not, they were still papers.
  • Adult Fear:
    • Kazuyuki is fairly collected at first in the face of imminent death. It's the imminent deaths of his wife and daughter that panics him.
    • This theme is inverted in Spiral: Andou has already lost his son, and he ends up making an extreme moral compromise because Sadako can bring him back.
    • Loop: Reiko has to watch her son commit suicide and later finds out that, in a way, she was partly responsible.
    • S has the protagonist, Takanori, realizing that his girlfriend, who is several months pregnant, is being stalked by a serial killer.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: The ring virus itself, after the revelation in Loop that the events of the first two book are set in a virtual reality. The virus was not programmed into the LOOP and developed independently, hence why nobody knew that it could escape back into the real world and became a new strain of cancer. Some characters speculate that someone had unknowingly introduced it from the real world, but in the new environment of the VR it mutated unpredictably.
  • And I Must Scream: In Spiral, autopsy of Mai's body suggests that she spent days trapped inside an exhaust shaft where she gave birth to Sadako before she perished. Because the shaft is located atop the highest building in the neighborhood, even screaming at the top of her lungs would not catch anyone's attention; the only way for her to be rescued would have been someone peering into the shaft by themselves.
  • Artifact of Death:
    • The cursed tape. Anyone who watches it will die in a week.
    • The ending of the Spiral has Asakawa's journal. Reading the script infects the reader with the broken ring virus (dubbed in the fifth book as the "S-type virus", because it resembles the letter S), which itself isn't fatal unless the reader happens to be an ovulating female. In that case, they would be impregnated with and give birth to a Sadako clone within a week.
  • 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.
  • Back from the Dead: Sadako, Ryuji, and Ando's son Takanori are all resurrected in Spiral.
  • Big Bad:
    • Sadako Yamamura is the recurring antagonist of the series, be in the novels or the film adaptations.
    • In Spiral, it's Sadako working with Ryuji who cause the events of the book.
    • S removes Sadako from the picture in favor of a purely human villain, Hiroyuki Niimura.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Most of the stories in the series generally follow this principle.
    • In Ring, despite thinking that they have freed Sadako from the well, Ryuji is still killed by the curse, since the only way to stop the curse is to copy it and show it to someone else. To save his wife and daughter, Kazuyuki proceeds to make them copy the tape. This ending is followed by the both the Japanese and American film adaptations.
    • In Spiral, Kazuyuki and Mai are both killed, while Ando is forced to cooperate with Sadako and Ryuji in spreading the curse under the threat that Sadako will activate the dormant ring virus inside him should he refuse. In return, Ando's son, Takanori, whom he grieves to the point of almost committing suicide, is resurrected. This is quite depressing for the universe, but at least Ando's objective is fulfilled.
    • In Loop, Kaoru ends up having to reenter the LOOP to find the cure for the virus, saving thousands from the MHC in the real world but separating him from his parents and Reiko forever.
  • Blessed with Suck: Shizuko Yamamura's gift. It brought her both fame and scorn, because she could not control it, and eventually led to her suicide. Her daughter, Sadako, inherited a much more powerful version of the gift, but she led an lonely and unhappy life before meeting her end in a brutal and tragic way.
  • Brown Note:
    • The video tape kills anyone who watches it within seven days.
    • Spiral introduces a journal on the tape which becomes a carrier for the curse.
  • Clone Degeneration: The Sadako clones are biologically perfect; as intersex they don't need a mate to reproduce and all of their children are exact copies of themselves. However, genetically similar people are much more susceptible to mutation, be it good or bad, so if a degenerative mutation passes on to one of them, everyone else will catch it in no time. In fact, this what what causes LOOP to be shut down, because everything there, from humans to animals to plants, are in danger of being affected by Sadako's genes and, by extension, defective mutation.
  • Clones Are People, Too: In S, Ryuji contemplated killing off the last of the Sadako clones, but eventually figured out that the world isn't in much of a hurt by just four clones. Takanori ponders if he should leave Akane after deducing that she is a Sadako clone, but then realizes that her predicament isn't much different from him being a resurrected person, and he is also too much in love with her to heartlessly abandon her like that (this is before Akane is revealed to be fathered by Ryuji, of course).
  • Curse Relay: The cursed videotape that causes anyone who watches it to die in a week. The only way to avoid this fate is to copy the tape and show it to someone else, thus passing the curse on to them.
  • Death of a Child: Two of the first victims are teenagers, Ando's three-year-old son died in a freak accident years ago, Kazuyuki's one year old daughter ends up becoming claimed by the virus, and Reiko's 10-year-old son commits suicide onscreen.
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • In the backstory, Shizuko Yamamura committed suicide by jumping into the volcano of Izu Oshima after she became subject to public scrutiny.
    • After he lost his son, Ando contemplates suicide several times, though he ultimately decides to live on.
    • In S, the serial killer Niimura commits suicide by jumping into a railway just as a train is about to arrive. However, upon watching the security recording, Takanori suspects either a Psychic-Assisted Suicide or Make It Look Like an Accident, courtesy of Akane.
  • Doomed by Canon: The short story Coffin in the Sky details the last moments of a character whom the readers know had died in Spiral.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Kazuyuki is badly injured and eventually dies due to a car accident in Spiral, which is completely without warning and is not in itself involved in the curse. His wife and daughter at least have an explanation of being dead by the curse before it happened, but not Kazuyuki. It becomes rather jarring when the protagonist that you followed in the previous book suddenly goes away like that, while you switch to a completely unrelated individual in the next.
  • Dumb Struck: Kazuyuki Asakawa, after the virus claims his wife and daughter's lives. As the first book makes clear, they mean everything to him, so when they die, he doesn't have any more reason to live.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: The outcome of Spiral has Sadako using the ring virus on pregnant women to duplicate herself. In several years time, the world has been infested by clones of Sadako. Loop reveals that the LOOP was frozen pending a definite solution to contain Sadako's clones. After Kaoru manages to find a virus that can speed up the aging process of clones, the scientists restart the LOOP and begin killing off the clones.
  • The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You:
    • It's repeatedly mentioned that watching the tape gives the people the sensation of actually being there in the video and not just serving as an observer. Same goes with Asakawa's journal.
    • Spiral reveals at the end that Sadako could affect people who read about her story if the journals left behind by the affected characters were turned into a novel... oh crap.
    • The Metastatic Human Cancer Virus from Loop is a mutation of the ring virus from the LOOP reality that unwittingly escaped into the real world and linked with a bacteria.
  • Genre Shift: Ring is a mystery thriller. Spiral is a medical thriller. Loop is sci-fi with a hint of cyberpunk. S notably goes back to the first novel's genre and tone.
  • Gone Horribly Wrong: LOOP was originally designed to simulate the origin of the universe, then expanded to become a subject for scientists to observe how life evolved. However, it ended up creating the Ring virus, which became a major disease when it somehow escaped into the real world.
  • Greater-Scope Paragon:
    • Professor Eliot from Loop. He, and not Ryuji, was the one who gave Mitsuo Ando the hint to solve the case in Spiral, because he wanted to make way for Ryuji to be reborn again into the LOOP, now containing Kaoru's consciousness.
    • Kaoru is this for S. As Seiji Kashiwada, he was the one who put an end to the terror of the ring virus once and for all and was the one who saved Akane from being murdered by Hiroyuki Niimura.
  • Hunk: Many characters describe Ryuji as this. Ando, in particular, thinks that Ryuji's appearance brings to mind an athlete rather than a professor (of philosophy, no less).
  • Intersex Tribulations: Sadako was born with androgen insensitivity syndrome and was killed because of it. She's later reborn as a "complete hermaphrodite". This element is removed in almost all adaptations.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Kazuyuki and his film counterpart, Reiko.
  • I Have Many Names:
    • Ryuji Takayama was reborn as Kaoru Futami in the world. He returns to the LOOP initially as Ryuji, but later changes his identity to Seiji Kashiwada.
    • Sadako Yamamura, also known as Masako Takano/Maruyama. The clones she produced presumably have other names, as well.
  • 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 all carry the curse.
  • Likes Older Women: In Loop, Kaoru falls in love with Reiko, a woman who is 15 years his senior, was married and had a son who might as well be his younger brother.
  • Messianic Archetype: Kaoru Futami, a man who sacrifices his life for the greater good of the world. Invoked explicitly by Professor Eliot, who is presumably a devout Christian.
  • Mother Nature, Father Science: In Loop, Kaoru's father is a mathematician, while his mother majored in American studies.
  • Motifs: Sadako is associated with the color green and the scent of something similar to lemon. If one of those is described (or both are), it's a clear indication that she is going to appear soon.
  • Murder Into Malevolence: Sadako Yamamura was born with immense psychic powers she couldn't control, grew up an orphan because of the media, attempted to lead a normal life, and was raped and tossed into a well to die. Only then did she decide she wanted to bring harm to the whole world.
  • Must Not Die a Virgin: Ryuji thinks that people should not want to die a virgin, which is why he turned to rape to feed his sexual needs. Ironically, Kazuyuki later finds out that Ryuji had been fabricating his rape claims, meaning he actually did die a virgin.
  • Next Sunday A.D.:
    • Loop is set sometime during The New '10s, but the book was published back in 1998.
    • S, released in 2012, is set in 2016.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Spiral has Asakawa, whose report on the Sadako case spread her influence to any kind of media that described his investigation, including literature, film, and audio. In fact, Sadako spared him precisely because of this reason.
  • No Dead Body Poops: Averted. In S, Seiji Kashiwada urinates during his execution, and his later suicide video (actually Ryuji) also has him urinate while he is hanged.
  • Once More, with Clarity!: The ending of Spiral and Loop are set within the same time, but have wildly different interpretation. In the former, it paints Ryuji as a nihilistic ass who basically rejects his humanity in favor of becoming a superior species. In the latter, it paints him as a savior who will save humanity from said superior species.
  • One-Letter Title: S.
  • The One That Got Away: After he lost track of Sadako, Hiroshi Toyama eventually married two times and divorced once, but his heart will always be for his beloved Sadako.
  • One-Word Title: Four of the five books in the series have one-word titles: Ring, Spiral, Loop, Birthday, and Tide. As noted above, the fourth book goes further and is only titled S.
  • Outliving One's Offspring:
    • Kazuyuki's niece-in-law, Tomoko Oishi, is one of the first victims of the virus, leaving her parents to mourn over her.
    • A theme in Spiral, which has many instances of this. Ando lost his son in a swimming incident a year and a half before the events of the book. Ryuji's mother loses her son to the virus. Kazuyuki's daughter, Yoko, dies of the ring virus and his parents in turn lose him when he dies of his injures days later. Finally, Ando dreads having to tell Mai's mother of her daughter's death weeks after she contracted the virus.
    • In the ending of Loop, Kaoru chooses to go to the LOOP, sacrificing his body in the real world so he can find a cure to neutralize the MHC. His consciousness still exists in the virtual reality, but his parents will never be able to see him physically again.
  • Parental Abandonment:
    • Sadako Yamamura was raised lovingly by her parents for several years until the fateful demonstration which broke both of their psyches. Shizuko eventually committed suicide by jumping into a volcano, while Dr. Ikuma went insane and developed tuberculosis, ending up in a sanatorium.
    • Akane Maruyama from S was raised in an orphanage. Her mother died when she was young and she doesn't know who her father is. The climax of the book reveals that her mother is a Sadako clone who became ill because of her defect genes, while her father is Ryuji Takayama, who felt that he was not worthy of raising her.
  • Potty Failure: Briefly, in the first novel. While Kazuyuki is emptying the water inside the well, he is in such a state of panic, fear and exhaustion that he urinates. Since Sadako's skeleton is down there somewhere, as he darkly notes in his narration:
  • Rapid Aging: People who are cloned through Sadako will rapidly grow to the age of their original counterpart, after which they begin to age normally. As an instance, Ryuji grows to a thirty-something man within the span of several weeks after he is reborn.
  • Rule of Seven: Seven days left to live for viewers of the tape, seven days for ovulating women who become infected by the virus to give birth to Sadako, seven stories of Mai's apartment, seventeen first edition copies of Asakawa's journal...
  • Senseless Sacrifice: Shizu Asakawa's parents agree to watch the tape to save their daughter and granddaughter and vow not to pass the tapes to someone else. Shizu and Yoko end up dying to the virus anyway.
  • Sequel Goes Foreign: The second half of Loop is set in the United States.
  • She's a Man in Japan: Sadako is intersex in the novels; this is completely dropped in all of the adaptations except the 1999 Korean film version and the video game Ring: Terror's Realm.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Kazuyuki's role in the series has been nothing but this. He attempts to save himself and his family from the curse by solving it, in the process dragging his friend, Ryuji, along. Then Ryuji dies and Kazuyuki learns that he already saved himself when he showed the copy of the tape to Ryuji. However, he fails to use this information to save his family, and afterwards, he crashes his car and becomes catatonic, ultimately dying several days later. He does have an impact, though, namely by allowing his brother to transcript his recordings into paper form, thus spreading the curse further.
  • Something Completely Different:
    • Loop 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 an equivalent to a new form of cancer in the real world, and the protagonist has to utilize this to save his girlfriend.
    • The switch to science fiction has actually been done since Spiral, as while Sadako is still the Big Bad, the novel explains that the curse is cancer that has two forms instead of the eldritch curse typical of a psychological horror fiction. The shift is more noticeable in the film adaptations; you'd be shocked that both Ring and Rasen films are part of the same franchise, considering their wildly different tone (thriller in the former and medical drama in the latter).
  • Surprise Incest: In S, it is revealed that Akane is the biological daughter of Masako Maruyama (a Sadako clone). Her boyfriend, Takanori, was reborn to life through Masako's womb (as she had the ability to clone a dead person). None of the characters are particularly disturbed by the implication, as Masako did not impart her genes to Takanori during the birthing process, but still.
  • Teacher/Student Romance: Ryuji and Mai. However, Mai explicitly describes their relationship as platonic and denies that they ever had sex.
  • Techno Babble: There are lots of them in the series, particularly in Loop (which delves into computer science and virtual reality).
  • Thrown Down a Well: Sadako was thrown into a well, then pelted with rocks to make sure that she died. The "ripples" that dot the inside of the ring in the video represent these rocks.
  • Tomato in the Mirror:
    • Loop reveals that the events of the previous two books happened in a virtual reality called LOOP.
    • Near the end of Loop, Kaoru Futami finds out that he is a reincarnation of Ryuji Takayama, born when the latter's cells were transferred from LOOP to the real world. The two share the same appearance, but not personality.
    • In S, Takanori Ando learns in his adulthood that he died and was resurrected when he was 3 years old; Sadako had cloned him using genes of the hair Mitsuo managed to grab on from the original Takanori, whose body was never found. Mitsuo never told him this, because he was afraid he couldn't handle the truth.
    • Also from S, Akane Maruyama learns that her mother was a Sadako clone, while her father is Ryuji Takayama (or rather, Kaoru Futami; it's not the Ryuji who died of the ring virus, but the Ryuji who was possessed by Kaoru's consciousness after he returned back to LOOP).
  • Up the Real Rabbit Hole: Loop establishes that the events of Ring and Spiral happened in a virtual world. It is artificial, so to speak.
  • Uptown Girl: Takanori's and Akane's problem in S. Takanori was brought up in an upper class family, was free to enter any institution he wished, travels around the world frequently, and has many rich and educated friends. Akane is an orphan who had to struggle to become a teacher and live a frugal life. Despite Takanori's assurances, Akane feels that he is too good for her and fears his parents' reaction upon meeting her.
  • Unsettling Gender Reveal: Jotaro Nagao, the doctor who tries to rape Sadako in the novels, gets this when he learns Sadako is intersex. Aside from an obscure Sega Dreamcast video game based on the franchise, the Korean film version is the only adaptation that keeps this plot twist.
  • The Virus: The Series. It's worth noting that while the film adaptations do retain the novels' explanation of the curse being caused by a virus, their shift to horror means that a lot of the details ended up being left out, increasing the horror part (the books are more sci fi). The novels explain, in detail, the origin and chronology of the virus.
    • The ring virus is the produce of the smallpox virus mixing with Sadako's body. Smallpox was eradicated in the 1970s, so it had to evolve to become relevant again. Meanwhile, Sadako was the product of a broken home, her life destroyed by the media. Both beings had inherent hatred against the world in general and "mated" with one another so they could take revenge, latching onto a TV screen with a VCR tape recording it, creating the cursed tape.
    • Because its method to multiply was unwittingly erased by Kazuyuki's niece and her friends, the virus mutates into two strains, an active and dormant one, when Kazuyuki copies it for Ryuji. The active virus, which has a ring shape, will invariably kill its host in seven days, with no way of removing it. The dormant virus, which is shaped like a spermatozoa, will not kill its host unless they are an ovulating female, in which case it will infect their ovum and transform it into a Sadako clone. The active virus can transform into dormant if the host helps it propagate, as what is happening to Kazuyuki, while Sadako implies that she can will the dormant virus to active if she wants to, though she never acts on the threat.
    • Because all of the tapes are destroyed in Spiral, the virus mutates into a written form, making Kazuyuki's report on Sadako its new host. Since books can be spread much quicker than VCR tapes, the whole world is predicted to be enveloped in the virus in a matter of years.
    • In Loop, it is revealed that the ring virus escaped from LOOP into the real world when Ryuji Takayama was cloned into the real world. It infected a bacteria and mutated again, this time into an immortal cancer which cannot be removed in any way. The only cure of the virus lies in the man who brought it, now known as Kaoru Futami.
  • Wham Line:
    • Aside from the cover and promos, there is nothing to indicate that Loop is a sequel or even part of the Ring series until this bit comes:
      Kaoru: "What was the cause? Why did the Loop's life forms turn cancerous?"
      Amano: "That's easy. It was the appearance of the ring virus."
    • Also from Loop, there is this part, for the readers who haven't managed to deduce the big reveal:
      Amano: "I'll give you the short version. The cancerization of the Loop came about through the emergence of an unknown virus and a series of events linked to it. At the center of those events were three artificial life forms: one called Takayama, one called Asakawa, and one called Yamamura. It's been determined that these three life forms played important roles in the cancerization of the Loop."
  • Whole Episode Flashback: Spiral, Loop, and S all have chapters which provide a rundown of the journal Kazuyuki Asakawa wrote in Ring, basically recapping the events of the first book. Loop additionally also has a section recapping the events of Spiral, to an extent that about half a dozen pages end up telling something the readers already knew before.
  • The Wild West: In Loop, Kaoru's search for the MHC cure leads him to the American West. His mother, a graduate of American studies, asks him to identify "the Ancient One", a figure from Native American legends who reputedly can make one immortal. Kaoru stumbles upon a VR set in an abandoned village and witnesses the life of a Native American tribe during the 19th century.
  • Year Inside, Hour Outside: Since LOOP is a virtual reality, time is much slower there compared to the outside world. The project only began several decades ago, but during that time, it managed to go through the entire chronology of the universe to catch up with the current time. Afterwards, though, it seemed to have quickened considerably, before the scientists put it in a 20-year stasis.

  • 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.
    • In the 1998 Japanese film, Reiko discreetly shows the tape to her father, dooming him but saving Yoichi.
    • The original ending of the American remake had Rachel showing the tape to a death row prisoner (played by Chris Cooper).
  • Adaptational Villainy: Samara Morgan seems to get hit with this, compared to Sadako Yamamura, as she is implied to have been evil in life as well.
  • Adaptation Distillation:
    • Most of the adaptations change the tone of the story significantly, mainly to make it more palatable to horror audiences.
    • The short film Rings, which shows how the Cursed Video would affect an ordinary teenager.
  • Adaptation Name Change:
    • All characters underwent this. Between the US and Japanese versions, Rachel and Samara are probably the closest to the original (Reiko and Sadako).
    • Even in the original Japanese adaptations, some characters undergo name changes without the whole Gender Flip thing. Akane Ayukawa from the Sadako 3D series, for instance, was originally named Akane Maruyama in the novels.
  • Age Lift: Sadako is an adult at the time of her death in the novels and Japanese films, but Samara, her counterpart in the American films is only a child.
  • All There in the Manual: Shortly before the first US remake was released, a few websites about it were made public. They had parts of documents, such as medical records and newspaper and magazine articles, which explained backstories of some characters, particularly the Morgans. Some parts of these documents appear briefly in the film itself.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: In the first US remake, doctors believe Samara has a psychiatric and neurological condition, but they can't conclude what exactly.
  • An Aesop:
    • In the first US movie, "Don't mess with nature" can be one, as Samara's origin is unnatural:
      Richard: (Suddenly SHOUTING!) My wife was not supposed to have a child!
    • There's also this quote from a deleted scene:
      Fisherman: They came back with a little bundle, said a doctor helped 'em overseas. I suppose you mess with the natural way, you get what's coming to you.
  • And I Must Scream:
    • In the Japanese films, Sadako was sealed inside the well when she was a young adult, however Ring 2 reveals that she was in her 40's 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.
    • In the American films, Samara, too, though to a much lesser extent. Rachel theorizes that Samara survived for seven days inside the well before dying, which was why she gave those cursed by the videotape seven days to live. It's much more plausible for her to survive that long as opposed to 30 years, but she still couldn't escape once trapped there. And she's just a little girl.
  • Animals Hate Him: In the American movies, 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, in the Japanese film series, only around four characters survive the films, excluding Rasen since characters are resurrected.
  • Arc Symbol: The ring symbol appears everywhere in the first American movie.
  • Arc Words: From the first American remake: "I'm sorry. It won't stop." and "Seven days."
  • Asshole Victim:
    • 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.
    • In The Ring, the people on Moesko Island aren't exactly unhappy that Samara died.
      Dr. Grasnik: See, when you live on an island you catch a cold, it's everybody's cold.
      Rachel: No offense, ma'am, but what the hell does that mean?
      Dr. Grasnik: It means ever since that girl's been gone, things have been better.
    • Jake from the American Rings is this as well. Yes, he's still sympathetic as he's plagued by the supernatural, but he coldly attempts to pass the curse onto a nice girl who had a crush on him. 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.
  • Bedlam House: In the American films, while very little is revealed of the hospital where Samara stayed, it's hard to imagine how they thought they could help her while putting her in a bare room with nothing to do, showing more interest in her powers than in her as a person even when she told the doctor she didn't know how she made the things she did. It is possible she received some sort of electroshock therapy (old electrodes are shown — however, their purpose isn't revealed so they might have been only used for reading signals), and a (failed) psychosurgery is mentioned in her medical files. Both were fairly common practices in her lifetime (the 1970s), possibly even more so with unusual patients such as herself.
    Dr. Scott: Let's talk about these pictures you make.
    Samara (slowly): I don't make them, I see them... And then... They just... Are.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed:
    • In Ring 0, Akiko shoots both Etsuko and herself in the head, rather than have Sadako kill them.
    • In Sadako 3D 2, Kakiuchi commits suicide after killing Akane. Sure, it might be because he is an Ax-Crazy by this point, but it is not hard to think that he just want to die on his own terms, rather than have Nagi and/or Sadako do the job.
  • Beware the Nice Ones:
    • Sadako herself, when she was alive — well, her good side, anyway.
    • In the films, 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.
    • Akane in Sadako 3D. Too kind for her own good, she even treats her students more as acquaintances. But you threaten her students, friends, or boyfriend, Takanori, she will make sure you pay for it with her super-sonic screams.
  • Big "NO!":
    • In The Ring, Rachel, when she discovers Aidan watching the tape.
    • In Sadako 3D 2, Takanori does this after Kakiuchi kills Akane.
  • Bittersweet Ending:
    • In Ring 2, the curse has not yet stopped and Reiko is killed in the most Dropped a Bridge on Him way possible, but at least Yoichi has found a new mother figure in Mai. Oh, and Okazaki also becomes insane by Kanae's hauntings, but well, his karma for being a coward.
    • In Sadako 3D, many people are killed, but Akane manages to both save Takanori from Sadako and expel Sadako's influence on her, so this may classify as a happy ending for some.
    • In Sadako 3D 2, Akane is killed in front of her daughter, Nagi, but the latter has found a new mother figure in her aunt, Fuko, who has practically raised her from birth, anyway. Kashiwada is killed too. The Stinger, though, implies that this peace may not last long...
  • Blessed with Suck:
    • Sadako's miraculous psychic abilities brought her, and everyone around her, more grief than they were worth.
    • Akane, too, in Sadako 3D, though it crosses a bit with Cursed With Awesome, since her supersonic screams were what killed the lunatic who threatened her and her friends back when she was young, and they also destroyed all of those Sadako clones at the end. But it still fits, since it ostracized her, and ultimately, the reason why Sadako wants her to be her host.
  • Break the Cutie:
    • Sadako in both the novels and the films. Not to mention Yoichi in Ring 2, and poor Etsuko from Ring 0.
    • Poor Nagi from Sadako 3D 2 gets most people to ostracize and want to kill her, especially when it's revealed that she's not the source of the new curse (which makes Takanori's abandonment all the more jerkass). Her aunt, Fuko, too, as she still has to relieve the sight of her mother's suicide. Luckily, both of them get better.
  • Brown Note: Other than the tape, Sadako 3D and Sadako 3D 2 both feature a new medium to transmit the curse: web video. And unlike the videotape, it's randomly generated.
  • Calling Parents by Their Name: In The Ring, Rachel Keller's son Aidan calls her Rachel instead of "mom". He's the product of a broken home (Rachel and her boyfriend broke up after having him), and things get stranger when he starts getting mental images from a ghost.
  • Came Back Wrong: Well, sort of. The movies imply 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".
  • Catapult Nightmare: Rachel in the first American movie.
  • Chair Reveal: Noah's corpse in the first American movie.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The protagonist's copy of the tape.
  • Color Wash: In the American films, almost everything is tinged with the color green to give the series a sickly, unnatural feeling.
  • Continuity Reboot / Canon Discontinuity:
    • After the first movie was made in Japan, 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.
    • Both Sadako 3D and Sadako 3D 2, despite being billed as official sequels of the series, seem to be set in a unique world of their own. The only connections to the previous films are that one of the supporting characters is named Takanori Ando (Ando's son in Rasen who got resurrected, which as mentioned above, got discounted from the series canon, so it doesn't count) and it is explicitly stated to have happened 13 years after the tape first claimed its victims (which was the events of Ring). People can watch them independently without having prior knowledge of the previous films. This is unlike the book they are based on, S, which is a proper sequel full of connections and references to the previous novels.
    • The 2019 Sadako film completely disregards everything except for the first Ring and, rather than adapting elements from the novels, tells an original story.
  • Convenient Photograph: Rachel knows something happened at the cabin when she finds the photographs of Katie and her friends with their faces suddenly messed up. She later invokes it when trying to get Noah to believe her, by making him take a picture that shows her messed-up face in order to get him on board.
  • Cool Horses: In The Ring, The Morgans had famous racing horses, until the horses killed themselves, making them even more famous.
  • Creator Cameo: Koji Suzuki, the books' author, appeared in Rasen.
  • Creepy Child:
    • Sadako as a young girl.
    • Samara and Aidan in the American remake.
    • In the Japanese films, Yoichi could also count — especially in Ring 2.
    • Nagi in Sadako 3D 2, even when it's revealed that she's not the cause of the curse.
  • Daylight Horror: Many of the scarier scenes in the Japanese films happen during the daytime. Also, in the US remake, only the first scene was set at night.
  • Deal with the Devil: It's hinted in the first American film that Samara is a result of this.
  • Death by Adaptation: Sorta. In Ring 0: Birthday, Toyama is one of the casualties of Sadako's rampage after she merges with her Superpowered Evil Side, and he dies rather unceremoniously, too, if his screams are any indication. Meanwhile, in the short story the film is based on, Lemonheart, not only is Toyama spared from being involved in those horrors, he gets to live a long and meaningful life without Sadako. In his death throes, he even welcomes Sadako, who comes to ease his passing.
  • Death Seeker: In Ring 2, Takashi Yamamura, Sadako's uncle, seeks death after the actions he caused in the past.
  • Definite Article Title
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The American remake is saturated with blue, in subtle imitation of low-quality tape recordings.
  • Does Not Like Shoes:
  • 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.
    • Also, in Ring 0: Birthday, Akiko shoots the crying and hysterical Etsuko, and then herself, both through the head, rather than die at Sadako's hands.
    • Richard Morgan in the US version.
    • Dr. Kawajiri in Ring 2, and Takashi Yamamura to an extent.
    • All of the horses on the Morgan ranch in the remake. Some of them might have survived: according to an old newspaper article, the behavior of the horses returned to normal after Anna died.
    • In the Sadako 3D series, the curse takes a twist from cursing the people to die within seven days, to having a sudden urge to kill themselves.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Like Kazuyuki in the novels, Reiko is abruptly killed off in Ring 2, seemingly with zero connection with the virus.
  • Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: Samara in the US films.
  • Electrified Bathtub: Used in the US remake when Richard utilises this method to kill himself.
  • Enfant Terrible:
    • In the US remake, Samara. Most people would think that Sadako in the original Japanese versions is this, but she's actually an adult (though she did kill a person when she was a girl).
    • In the US remakes, Yoichi and Aidan become this in the period when they're influenced by Sadako and Samara, respectively. Otherwise, they're fairly adorable (if creepy) children.
  • Episode 0: The Beginning: Ring 0: Birthday.
  • "Eureka!" Moment:
    • Reiko has one in the first film, when she realises that the phone only rings at the cabin. She has another when she realizes that she was saved because she copied the tape and showed it to Ryuji.
    • In The Ring, Rachel recalling Richard growling at her, "You take one person's tragedy and force the world to experience it... spread it like sickness." The light goes on over Rachel's head.
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: In the American remake, Rachel's hair is initially worn straight. As she starts delving further into the story about the Morgans, she begins to wear it with a curl.
  • 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 Ring 2 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.
  • The Farmer and the Viper:
    • Rachel thinks that giving Samara's corpse a proper burial will let her pass on. It doesn't, and Samara starts searching for her.
    • In the 2019 Sadako film, Mayu encourages the reincarnated Sadako to stay alive. This ends up causing Kazuma's death, as well as her own death when Sadako decides to pay her a visit in the hospital.
  • 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.
  • Le Film Artistique: In The Ring, Noah dismisses the curse tape as very "student film".
  • 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.
  • Flashback: In the Japanese and American versions, there is a scene which shows how Sadako/Samara got in the well.
  • Foreshadowing; Several in the American remake:
    • Rachel pulls a fly out of the image on the television screen. That's not the only thing that will be coming out of the television screen.
    • In the beginning, Katie rants about "electro-rays" that come out of televisions and destroy brain cells but nobody is willing to do anything about them.
    • Many of the images shown on the videotape appear later in the real world or dream scenes throughout the rest of the film.
    • People see the ring shortly before their death: Katie sees the glass rim when she drinks, and Noah sees the ring made by his coffee mug.
    • In the opening scene, Katie's face becomes blurred and she will die. Everyone else who watches the tape will have their faces blurred in the same way in photographs and video footage.
    • In the beginning, when Becca talks about the cursed videotape, she says there's "a woman smiling at you" who then "sees you through the screen".
  • The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You:
    • In Japan, the release of Sadako 3D 2 came with a tie-in smartphone app that allowed Sadako to escape through the phone and attack the audience at various points throughout the movie.
    • The special edition DVD of the American film has an Easter Egg that plays an extended cut of the cursed tape...while disabling your remote control throughout it. Once finished, the sound effect of a ringing phone is played.
  • Freak Out: Etsuko has a huge one 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.
    • In Ring 2, after Reiko dies, we see Tomoko and her three friends standing with their backs to the audience.
  • Gender Flip: All adaptations of Ring are remembered for featuring female protagonists with a son to care about. The original protagonist in the novel is actually a man: Kazuyuki Asakawa, and he has a wife and daughter to care about. The subsequent TV adaptation, Ring: The Final Chapter, kept Asakawa as a man, but removed his wife and gave him a son.
  • Genre Shift:
    • To an extent, anyway — Ring 0, while still considered a horror movie, is much more of a drama with supernatural/horror elements than the previous two movies.
    • The whole movie adaptations are this compared to the novels, which are more sci-fi than horror. Loop (as well as Happy Birthday, which follows it), in particular, is more of a cyberpunk fiction, unlike anything else in the series.
  • Get A Hold Of Yourself Man: Towards the end of the first film, Ryuji slaps Reiko in the face to snap her out of her sudden Freak Out.
  • Ghostly Goals: Sadako (and in the remake, Samara) wants to cause as much suffering to the world, just as she had to experience when she was alive.
  • Half-Human Hybrid
    • In the Japanese films, it's highly implied that Sadako's biological father is some of kind of an oceanic deity, making Sadako a demigoddess. The American remake is much more vague, but judging the the words of their neighbors, it is implied that Samara was not conceived in a normal manner.
    • In the US remake, a mouth seen on the tape looks part human, part equine.
  • Haunted Technology: The cursed tape.
  • Healing Factor: Sadako is implied to have had this in life.
  • Healing Hands: In Ring 0, 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, an intersex condition that causes the woman affected to be born with a vagina, but with XY chromosomes, no uterus, and internal testes where the ovaries would typically be.
  • 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 sequels.
    • From the same film, Reiko 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.
  • Hey, You!: In the US version, Aidan only ever calls Rachel by her first name. This becomes a plot point in the sequel.
  • Homage: According to Word of God, the cursed tape was based on Un Chien Andalou.
  • Hope Spot: In the both film adaptations, 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...
  • Horror Hates a Rulebreaker: Watching the cursed tape will attract the attention of Sadako, who'll show up to kill you seven days later. The only way around this is to copy the tape and trick someone else into watching it, passing the curse on to them. Even finding the corpse of Sadako and laying her body to rest won't help; she's too bitter and angry to let the curse go.
  • The Illegible: One of the menu items in Terror's Realm reads "Baked Jelly", but between that being such an odd thing to advertise and the low resolution of the texture involved, it can be very difficult to decipher, as The Spoony Experiment proved.
  • In Name Only: Have you ever wondered how Ring 0: Birthday got its title? It was adapted from a short story called Lemon Heart, which was published in the anthology called Birthday... but Birthday itself got its name from a different short story in the anthology, Happy Birthday, which did not make it to the film and in fact, has never been adapted in any way, shape, or form (even the anthology's manga adaptation replaced it with an original story). The correct title would've been something like Ring 0: Lemon Heart.
  • Ironic Echo: After learning of Ruyji's death in the first film, Reiko asks "Why was I the only one saved?" In the climax of Ring 2, the ghost of Sadako climbs up the well after Mai, but all that happens is she asks the similar "Why we you the only one saved?" before letting Mai and Yoichi escape.
  • Invincible Boogeymen: Sadako and Samara are utterly unstoppable: once you've seen the cursed tape, your death is totally assured. When the ghost herself finally appears in person to claim a victim, she cannot be fought in any way.
  • Jump Scare: The corpse in the closet in the first American movie.
  • Kubrick Stare:
    • Anyone who is influenced by Sadako is prone to doing this. Yoichi, in particular, spends almost the entire second half of Ring 2 doing this, mainly after Reiko dies.
    • Sadako seems to inherit this trait from her mother, Shizuko, who gives a terrifying one to Mai, also in Ring 2.
    • Another, horrifying example also occurs in Ring 2, when Kanae, now part of the curse, gives an absolutely terrifying one to Okazaki as he tries (and fails) to erase her taped interview. To make matters worse, she's also wearing one hell of a Slasher Smile.
  • Leitmotif: Samara's Song in the US remake.
  • Let's You and Him Fight: The premise of Sadako vs. Kayako. In order to save two girls, each cursed by one of the titular ghosts, a psychic plans on inciting both of them to fight each other, hoping that the resulting conflict will mutually expunge both curses.
  • Lighthouse Point: Moesko Island has one. Doubles as a Genius Bonus if you read up about that particular shot: It's Yaquina Head Lighthouse from Oregon, which even has a few ghost stories related to it.
  • Like Father, Like Son: In The Ring, even though they are not related, in terms of appearance, Samara resembles Anna: both have long dark hair, dark eyes, and light skin.
  • Literal Split Personality: Ring 0 reveals that Sadako had a Superpowered Evil Side, responsible for the killing of the journalist seen in the first movie, which later split off from her into a separate entity. When both versions of Sadako re-merge during the climax, it's bad news for everyone involved.
  • Love at First Sight: On the promotional website for the US remake telling the Backstory of the Morgan family, it was said Richard and Anna instantly fell in love with each other when they realized both of them were interested in buying the same horse in the Netherlands.
  • Love Triangle: In Ring 0, Sadako and Toyama fall for each other while Toyama is in a relationship with Etsuko.
  • Madness Mantra: Downplayed in the first US film, where pages of Katie's journal are shown briefly and one of them is filled with "mirror mirror mirror [...]".
  • Mama Bear:
    • Both Reiko and Rachel in the film adaptations.
    • Fuko to Nagi too in Sadako 3D 2, and she's only her aunt.
    • Mai steps up as one for Yoichi in Ring 2, and unlike the above, she's not even his relative.
  • 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.
  • Mind Screw: Ring 2 loves this trope.
  • Mirror Scare
    • In the Japanese and US films, the part on the video where Sadako/Samara uses her psychokinetic powers to play a prank on her mother by moving a mirror.
    • In the first US film when Rachel and Noah notice there's no reflection of a camera in the mirror when there should be.
    • In the second US film when Aidan looks at the photographs he took of himself and sees Samara in the mirror coming closer and closer…
  • 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.
    • In the 2002 remake, employed in the opening scene, where it goes from Katie telling a spooky Urban Legend, both she and Becca laughing about it, then when the phone rings, the look of terror on Katie's face, with Becca nervously asking, "You mean it's real?" Cue Samara in 5... 4... 3...
  • Motifs: Several in the first US film:
    • The ring symbol appears as a Freeze-Frame Bonus and in the environment: in Aidan and Katie's drawings, in clothes, on the shower drain, in the number of Rachel's apartment (601), etc.
    • Centipedes, which can be interpreted e.g. as symbols of danger, death or evil, appear at least in the video and in the medical records.
    • Chairs seem to have some kind of importance as well: two of them appear in the video, there's one in the hospital and one in Samara's barn bedroom, one in Katie's room, Samara sits on one in Rachel's dream, Noah's corpse is placed on one, and finally, Rachel throws the tape under one.
    • Heat and water.
  • 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.
  • Mythology Gag: A couple in Sadako 3D.
    • Akane's boyfriend is called Takanori Ando; a name shared with Mitsuo Ando's son in Spiral. This is actually a remnant from the novel the film is based on, S, which is a sequel to Spiral, as in that novel, Takanori is literally Ando's son all grown up (S is set 25 years after Spiral, where Takanori was 3, so he's 28 here.)
    • Seiji Kashiwada's landlady comments that "everything in this world is fake", referencing the plot twist for the third book Loop.
    • The hospital that Takanori works in in Sadako 3D 2 is called the Asakawa General Hospital. Asakawa is the surname for the protagonist of Ring, both novel and film.
    • The copy of the cursed tape in the remake was the same prop from the original.
  • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • In Sadako, it's implied that Mayu's decision to resuscitate Sadako ends up causing her and her brother's deaths, as well as perpetuating the curse.
  • Nightmare Face:
    • Present in both the Japanese and US versions, although the faces in the US version are considerably more distorted.
    • There is a rumor that in 1999 a cut of the movie shown at a film festival in Brussels took this Up to Eleven with the mouths of the victims being "a narrow vertical opening." Despite numerous people claiming to have seen the "Brussels cut", Hideo Nakata has emphatically denied that such a version exists.
  • No Animals Were Harmed: This comes very early in the end credits of the 2002 film, with a very good reason. The horse suicide is not only realistic to the point of how they could have possibly accomplished it without hurting a real horse, but the visceral and brutal nature of it made some people flee the theater.
  • 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).
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Ah! It's all over! Rachel has released Samara from the well and let her soul go on to live in peace, now we can get back to our happy li—-wait, what did the kid just say?
      • Same goes for the Japanese version when Reiko and Ryūji free Sadako’s body and soul from the well, they go back and live their lives...until the TV at Ryūji’s house starts playing the tape again, only this time Sadako is successful in climbing out the well, and later out of the TV.
    • At the end of The Ring Two, Rachel exorcizes Samara from her son and reseals her in the well... and just when she's starting to relax he calls her "Mommy".
  • Ominous Multiple Screens: In the short film Rings, when Jake Pierce reaches his seventh day after watching the cursed video tape, he panics and tries to play the tape across a bank of TVs in an electronics store, only to get caught and thrown out by a security guard who happens to be in the same Ring group as Jake.
  • Ominous Television: Every version of the story makes copious use of the television even before we see Samara/Sadako. Notable examples include the television turning on by itself at the end of the US version's stinger after Katie tells Becca about the tape, the creepy crawlies coming out of the TV, and the amount of discussion in the original version about urban legends to do with local television stations and rogue broadcasts.
  • Ominous Visual Glitch: After someone watches the videotape and is marked for death by Sadako/Samara, any attempt to take their picture results in their face appearing distorted.
  • One-Hour Work Week: In the American movies, Rachel's office hours seem irregular at best. On the other hand being a journalist she would have more leeway with being able to work in the field than most other professions.
  • One-Word Title: Ring and Rasen. The American movie Rings also qualify.
  • 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 father, 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.) Poor Nagi also has both of her parents not there for her (her mother, Akane is comatose while fighting Sadako from the inside and later dies, while her father, Takanori, is just too in grief to take care of her). Luckily, she still has her aunt, Fuko, who practically takes both roles. Fuko and Takanori themselves also suffer this, since their mother committed suicide, while their father isn't mentioned at all.
  • Parental Substitute: In Ring 2, Mai becomes this for Yoichi after Reiko dies.
  • Pietà Plagiarism: In the 2002 American remake, when Rachel finds Samara's corpse in the bottom of the well, she cradles it like the Madonna holds Jesus after being taken down from the crucifix.
  • Platonic Cave: Terror's Realm. What Meg perceives as the [RING] program is actually the real world; the mundane world with no monsters is a humanity-wide projection brought on by Sadako.
  • Plot Threads: A variation in the original Japanese and the first US film, in which the story can be seen to have two sub-plots that have family and only-child motifs: Reiko's/Rachel's family is the main thread whereas the history of the Yamamura/Morgan family works as a B story. However, in this variation, instead of lives of both families being shown real-time, the B family has mostly gone and most events regarding it have already happened, and even though there are flashbacks, its story is mostly presented in documents that are left from its era and interviews of remaining people and those who knew the family.
  • The Power of Hate: Quite possibly the reason Sadako was able to survive for 30 years until she had the means to transmit her curse to the videotape.
  • Precision F-Strike: In The Ring Two: "I'm not your fucking mommy!"
  • Product Placement: In the first US movie, Rachel uses a Sensa pen.
  • Properly Paranoid: In The Ring, Katie's friend Becca becomes this after witnessing Katie's death. She can't even walk past a TV screen without something to block her view of it. She has plenty reason to be afraid of even a mere glimpse of a TV screen.
  • Psychic-Assisted Suicide: In The Ring Two, a child psychologist tries to keep Samara!Aidan away from Rachel. In response, Samara!Aidan psychically compels her to inject an air bubble into her own neck.
  • Psychic Nosebleed: Happens in the remake to both Rachel and Aidan.
  • 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). ** Everyone who comes into contact with Sadako and survives gains some of her psychic powers, as Mai and Masami do in Ring 2.
  • Rape as Backstory: In the novels, anyway.
  • Related in the Adaptation: In the novels, Kazuyuki and Ryuji are simply friends, with Kazuyuki having a wife and daughter. Since the movie flips Kazuyuki's gender to female, it's quite convenient to make Kazuyuki's counterpart, Reiko, be Ryuji's ex-wife, with Yoichi being their son.
  • 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.
    • In the American remake, it's implied that Samara was created through some sort of Deal with the Devil (although the Morgans do claim she was adopted). In the sequel to that, we meet her biological mother.
  • 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.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: 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.
  • Scare Chord: Played in the US films when distorted faces of Samara's victims are shown.
    • Also appears in the Japanese version when we see Tomoko's corpse, when Yoichi is caught watching the tape by Reiko, and when we see Sadako's eye.
  • Scarily Specific Story: Played with in Ringu and the American remake. It begins with a girl telling a scary story about a cursed videotape that kills you seven days after watching. She's only trying to creep out her friend...then her friend reveals that she watched the tape. Seven days ago.
  • Schmuck Bait: The cursed video tape and the legend surrounding it.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Sadako was trapped in a well by her father for the explicit reason of preventing her from hurting other people with her power.
  • Setting Update: Instead of Japan, the US and Korean versions are set in the USA and Korea, respectively.
  • Shared Universe: The Ring (2002) has Samara's file filled with Japanese text, which hints the psychiatrists were contacting their Japanese counterparts and inquiring about Sadako.
  • 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.
    • The cursed video itself is a shout out to Buñuel's Un Chien Andalou.
    • There are many shout outs to Hitchcock in the first U.S. movie:
      • When Rachel takes a shower (Psycho)
      • When she looks at the building in front of hers, there's a guy on a wheelchair with a cast on his leg (Rear Window)
      • When she discovers Noah's body (another Psycho reference)
      • And, well, the title (there's a silent movie by Hitchcock called The Ring)
    • The red tree prop in the remake was nicknamed "Lucy" by the crew after a certain red-headed actress.
    • The first U.S. film has some references to Japan:
      • Katie and Becca wear what look like Japanese school uniforms.
      • The red tree is a Japanese maple.
      • One of the papers in Anna's medical records contains Chinese and Japanese text.
    • In the first U.S. film, a Bad Religion sticker is shown in Noah's locker. A few of their music videos were directed by the same person who directed this movie: Gore Verbinski.
    • One of Aidan's toys in the US remake is a character from Blue Submarine No. 6.
    • In the balcony scene in the US remake, a part of a Taiwanese soft drink commercial featuring actor Takeshi Kaneshiro is shown.
      • In the same scene, I Am Weasel plays on one of the televisions.
    • Shizuko and Sadako are named after two people who lived in Japan in the early 20th century and were claimed to have Psychic Powers.
    • In the US remake, Noah's work locker has a Descendents sticker on the inside part of its door.
  • Shower of Angst: Rachel takes one in the first U.S. movie.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Sadako and Toyama.
  • The Stinger: Sadako 3D 2 features one, right before the credits roll. Sadako's child is not Nagi.
  • Stringy-Haired Ghost Girl: Sadako/Samara, who, along with Kayako Saeki from Ju-on, revitalized and popularized this concept in modern media.
  • Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: Reiko in Ring 2.
  • Superpowered Evil Side: Ring 0 reveals that Sadako had one, until it became a Literal Split Personality and was kept locked away from the world... until both of her "good" and "evil" halves re-merge at the end.
  • Symbolism: The cursed videotape is full of symbols. There's also the ring in the first US remake.
  • Tagline: "Before you die, you see..."
  • Television Portal:
    • In the first US film, Rachel pulls a fly out of a TV screen.
    • Sadako/Samara can emerge from a TV screen.
  • Thrown Down a Well: Sadako/Samara's fate. The ring itself is the small amount of light coming out from a rock at the top of the well.
  • Tragic Villain: Sadako in Ring 0: Birthday. Most of the tragedies are technically her fault, but she doesn't mean them to happen. Yet everyone are understandably scared and wants her to be got rid off. It's quite sad.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The Japanese trailer for the first movie completely spoils the now-famous scene of Sadako emerging from the TV screen.
  • Tranquil Fury: Do not get on Yoichi's bad side.
  • Trilogy Creep: The publication of Birthday apparently marked the end of the series, and, due to the nature of the novel (it's an anthology), that meant the true ending of the series was Loop, which perfectly made a trilogy with Ring and Spiral and in fact also closed all current plot threads ( The vaccine for the Ring virus is finally found in Loop). And suddenly, out of the blue, the novel S was released in 2012. No, not the film Sadako 3D (whose release date was in fact set to coincide with the former), S. And it's not a standalone novel either, since it focuses on a minor character from Spiral who was dead once but returned back. And it's followed by another sequel, Tide, which was released in 2013.
  • Truer to the Text: Rasen was notable for being more faithful to the novel on which it is based than the first film, which was a more loose adaptation. Unfortunately, this meant that Rasen simply did not work as a sequel to Ring, which is why it was later swept under the rug.
  • Understanding Boyfriend: Toyama to Sadako. Also Takanori to Akane.
  • Unnaturally Blue Lighting: The US version is filmed with a blue tint. The Ring Two avoids this, however. It's used again, this time by the Japanese series, in Sadako 3D and Sadako 3D 2.
  • 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 a co-worker 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.
  • Undead Barefooter: Sadako and her American counterpart Samara are barefoot when they emerge from their wells.
  • Unrelated in the Adaptation: In the novels, Sadako's biological father is Dr. Ikuma. In the films, Ikuma is her stepfather, while her biological father is an unknown supernatural entity.
  • Vagueness Is Coming: One of the opening scenes of Sadako 3D 2 features a woman in white saying "The girl is born". The audience is led to believe she meant Nagi, since the scene immediately preceding this is Akane giving birth to Nagi. It isn't.
  • Versus Title: Sadako vs. Kayako.
  • Villain Protagonist: Played with in Ring 0: Birthday. Sadako is the protagonist, but it later emerges that her deadly powers come from her Superpowered Evil Side, who has split off into a seperate entity, leaving Sadako's "good" half as the protagonist for most of the film... until both halves re-merge during the climax.
  • Visual Pun:
    • The iron nails on the cursed videotape of the US remake symbolize Samara's loss of her fingernails when she tried to climb out of the well she died in.
    • Several objects, such as chairs and ladder, on the cursed video are isolated in the US version. This may symbolize Samara's isolation in the hospital and the barn.
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: Happens near the beginning of Ring 2, courtesy of Mai after she sees the destroyed videotape.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Aidan's reaction to his mom's actions at the end. Doubles as a Wham Line.
    Aidan: You helped her?
    Rachel: Yeah.
    Aidan: Why did you do that?
    Rachel: What's wrong, honey?
    Aidan: You weren't supposed to help her. Don't you understand, Rachel? She never sleeps.
  • Window Love: In Ring 0, Sadako and Toyama confess their love through a window to each other.
  • 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: In Ring 0: Birthday, 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.

Seven days...

Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Ringu, The Ring Terrors Realm, The Ring 2002


Samara emerging from the TV

Every version of the story makes copious use of the television even before we see Samara/Sadako. Notable examples include the television turning on by itself at the end of the US version's stinger after Katie tells Becca about the tape, the creepy crawlies coming out of the TV, and the amount of discussion in the original version about urban legends to do with local television stations and rogue broadcasts.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / OminousTelevision

Media sources:

Main / OminousTelevision