Ring Virus (1999) Movie Review

Fans of the Naomi Watts horror film “The Ring” may be surprise to learn that the US remake wasn’t the first attempt at redoing the story. It was remade in South Korea in 1999, beating Gore Verbinski’s remake by 3 years. While not as good as the original film, the Korean version is still an effective ghost story for the video age.

When the niece of a journalist dies under mysterious circumstances, the journalist undertakes an investigation to discover the truth about what really happened. She learns of an urban legend about a cursed videotape that causes you to die seven days after viewing it. After she watches the tape, the reporter finds out the hard way that the legend is frighteningly true. Teaming with an eccentric doctor, she must solve the tape’s puzzle or perish in seven days.

Eun-kyung Shin (“My Wife is a Gangster”) is perfectly cast as the cursed journalist racing against time. Not only is the character attractive, she’s also strong, highly intelligent and courageous. Definitely someone you’d want on your side with a deadly video circulating about. Jin-yeong Jeong (“Wild Card”) plays Dr. Choi, the local coroner/possible love interest, with the right amount of endearing weirdness. But Choi is insightful enough to realize there might be a supernatural explanation for all the goings on, and dogged enough to pursue the angle when most would dismiss the theory as crazy.

“The Ring Virus” has atmosphere and style in spades, thanks to the direction of Dong-bin Kim. He gives the film a peculiar and at times ethereal sense that differs from the numerous other versions. As a writer, Kim’s script is different from the other versions as well, but it nevertheless retains the storyline that made the original film so popular. The musical score by Il Won is noticeably sparse, relying more on ambient noise to create the spooky mood instead of synthesizers or orchestra pieces.

The main problem with the film isn’t the fault of the filmmakers at all. The original “The Ring” is originally based on a novel by Koji Suzuki, which has since spawned a graphic novel, a film, two sequels (“Ring 2” and “Ring 0: Birthday”), a spin-off film (“Ring: Spiral”), a television film in Japan, this remake, a US remake, an upcoming U.S. sequel, and not to mention a wicked parody in “Scary Movie 3”. Essentially, it’s a story too often told and there’s only so many different ways you can tell it and still keep it fresh.

“The Ring Virus” is well done, with good performances by its main performers. It is an effort worthy of “The Ring” moniker and fans of the films and books will enjoy this retelling. The only thing that hampers the film somewhat is that the story’s been told so often it really has no surprises left to offer. That’s not the fault of this production, which relates the tale as well as any other medium. But it’s probably time to declare a moratorium on anything to do with “The Ring”, before the idea gets overdone into mediocrity.

Dong-bin Kim (director) / Dong-bin Kim (screenplay), Koji Suzuki (novel)
CAST: Eun-Kyung Shin …. Sun-ju

Buy Ring Virus on DVD