Man, what is it with popular movies coming out and then a prequel coming out some years later. I mean, Star Wars is one of the more obvious instances but there have been others, including today’s movie. With the popularity of Ringu and Ringu 2, another sequel was made only this time, they decided to focus on how Sadako came to be the spirit in the well. So let’s see how good they did with today’s movie, Ringu 0.
The plot: A girl is talking on the phone to a friend, who is telling her about a video she watched, and when her friend mentions a well, the girl starts telling her about a dream she had. In the dream, she saw an old well, that was pitch black inside it, as well as an old house nearby. When she went into the house, she didn’t see anyone there and was about to check upstairs when she hears a scream and sees a man killing a woman and throwing her body down the well. 30 years earlier, a reporter named Akiko Miyaji is interviewing an elementary school principal named Mrs. Sudo about a former student named Sadako Yamamura. Akiko asks if Sadako had inherited her mother Shizuko’s powers and Sudo says she doesn’t know, but relates an incident that occurred on a class trip to the beach where 14 children had drowned and Sadako, who was terrified of the sea, had said if they went into the sea they would die. Meanwhile, Sadako, now 19 years old, has moved to Tokyo and joined a theater troupe, which was at her doctor’s suggestion as a way to deal with her nightmares. Aiko, the girl that Sadako is the understudy for, is not happy with Sadako being there, as the director seems to have become more critical of her since she joined. When one member comments on her looking pale, Aiko admits that she has been having bad dreams about a well and a house and the woman admits that she has had the same dream. Later, as the actors run through a scene, Aiko sees a barefoot girl in a white dress approaching her, though nobody else sees her. At the same time, Hiroshi Toyama, the sound director, hears a strange squealing sound coming from somewhere. When the director, Yusaku Shigemori, tells everyone to take a break, Aiko is seen slumped in a chair and when the woman she was talking to approaches her, she discovers that Aiko has died. Meanwhile, Akiko is interviewing an associate of Dr. Ikuma, Sadako’s father, and plays the recording of the incident that occured during Shizuko’s demonstration. Akiko informs him that while one reporter did die that day, all of the reporters have since died over the last 12 years and that the strange squealing noise can only be heard on that tape. Akiko asks if the man knows where Izuma or Sadako is but the doctor says he doesn’t know. Back at the theater, Sadako is named as Aiko’s replacement and while most of the actors shun or insult her, Toyama tells her to ignore them. After rehearsing her first scene, Shigemori calls it a day and Toyama approaches Sadako to congratulate her but Shigemori tells Toyama to finish editing the sound reels while he takes Sadako back to her apartment. As Toyama is checking the reels, he has his girlfriend Etsuko, the costume designer, listen and explains that the tape was on when Aiko died but the sound wasn’t there originally and Etsuko is shocked to hear what sounds like someone saying “You will die.” The next day, Etsuko is working on altering Sadako’s dress while some of the troupe members warn her that Toyama and Sadako are getting to close. As Etsuko takes a break, she sees what appears to be a young girl dressed in white walking across the room and she suddenly has a vision of the well and a forest by the sea before passing out. When she wakes up, she notices the dress is missing and when she sees Toyama walking down the hall, asks him if he has seen Sadako. The two go looking and eventually find Sadako holding the dress and Etsuko accuses her of taking it but Toyama tells her to stop. When Etsuko leaves, Sadako apologizes and says that sometimes she does things and doesn’t remember them, then starts to tell Toyama a little about her dreams. The next day, Etsuko looks up Sadako’s resume and goes to see her psychiatrist but he refuses to answer any questions as Etsuko leaves, the flyer for the play she was carrying is left on the ground and a man, who happens to be Akiko’s assistant, picks it up. Etsuko returns to the theater and goes to speak with Toyama, begging him to stay away from Sadako but Toyama refuses to listen. Akiko and her assistant show up as the troupe is preparing to rehearse and Akiko speaks with Shigemori for a few minutes about Sadako. Getting Shigemori’s permission, Akiko and her assistant approach Sadako and try to take some pictures but the camera breaks and Sadako runs off. Later, Akiko returns to office and finds Mrs. Sudo waiting for her. Mrs. Sudo explains that she couldn’t tell Akiko this earlier but she had paid a house visit to Sadako’s house shortly after Sadako was enrolled in her school. She said that Shizuke had begun her descent into madness at this point and she heard strange noise coming from the attic and when she looked up the stairs, she saw another child hiding there. From that point on, she was scared of Sadako because she didn’t know which child would actually be coming to school. Akiko goes to see how the pictures her assistant took turned out and they see that the entire troupe is cursed and that the pictures of the dead journalists are seen behind the picture of Sadako. The assistant says that Akiko will never be able to print this story but Akiko says it was never going to be a story, later revealing that the dead journalist during the demonstration was her fiance. Back at the theater, Shigemori confronts Sakado, saying he knows about her mother and her past and says she is the perfect actress. When nearby objects start shaking, Shigemori accuses Sadako of doing it and attacks her but Toyama, who was listening to their conversation, stops him. As the two struggle, Sadako hears a child’s laughter above them and yells for them to stop when there is a sudden crash and Toyama is shown to have accidentally killed Shigemori. Sadaku takes the wounded Toyama to Dr. Kuno but when he goes to treat Toyama’s injuries, he finds that they are already healing. As Toyama recovers, he tells Sadako that he will confess to Shigemori’s murder, saying that he will not let them hurt her. As Sadako waits for Toyama to be released, she sees a man in a wheelchair and touches his legs, enabling the man to stand up, which shocks the nurse attending him. Sadako and Toyama return to the theater and Toyama hides the body before the other troupe members arrive. When Shigemori is nowhere to be found, the troupe says that they can’t cancel and must perform the play. Sadako goes to see Toyama and he suggests they run away together after the show and Sadako agrees as they both profess their love to each other. Meanwhile, Akiko meets up with Etsuko and hands her a package, then heads inside the theater to watch the play while Dr. Kuno, having heard about what happened to the man in the wheelchair, also heads to the theater. As the play progresses, one of the stage hands discovers Shigemori’s body and one of the actors blames Sadako, causing rumors to start circulating. Etsuko gets Toyama to leave the sound booth, saying she will cover for him, and quickly switches the tape to the recording from Sizuke’s demonstration causing Sadako to have a breakdown. Dr. Kuno tries to get Sadako to calm down but she ends up accidentally killing him. The rest of the troupe chase after Sadako and while she pleads her innocence, several of the actors proceed to beat her to death while others hold Toyama at bay. When they are finished, Akiko approaches them and says that there is another Sadako and they must kill her as well or else they will all die from the curse. Akiko and the theater troupe head to Dr. Ikuma’s house and after he lets them inside, he explains that somehow Sadako had split into two people, with one of them taking after Shizuke while the other took after Sadako’s real father. This is what drove Shizuke mad and Ikuma explains that the only thing he could do was to use drugs from keeping it from growing up. Akiko heads up to the attic and goes to kill the other Sadako but finds the attic empty. Inside the truck, Toyama is holding onto Sadako’s hand when it suddenly starts grasping his, shocking both him and Etsuko, who was in the truck with him. Toyama tries to escape with Sadako and Etsuko, feeling guilty for her part in what happened, lets them go and tries to stop the others from chasing after them. Sadako tells Toyama to get away from her and heads to the edge of a cliff and as Toyama watches, he sees the other Sadako merge with Sadako and he tells her one last time that he loves her. As Toyama’s scream sounds through the air, Akiko and the theater troupe stop and look around in the woods as one by one, they all start dying. Akiko and Etsuko manage to make it to Ikuma’s old house to hide but Sadako approaches them and causes Akiko to shoot Etsuko and then herself. Ikuma, hearing all of the commotion, goes looking for Sadako and the others and finds Akiko and Etsuko’s bodies as well as Sadako, who is breaking down over what she had just done. Ikuma takes her back to the house to tend to her wounds and gives her some drugs to calm her down but then tells her that they should end this now. Sadako tries to escape but Ikuma chases her down and, catching up to her by the old well, strikes her in the head with a cleaver and throws the body down the well. Sadako has a dream of being reunited with Toyama but wakes up and screams as she realizes where she is and sees the lid being placed on top of the well, sealing her in.
This was a lot better than I thought it would be. The acting was pretty good, with Yukie Nakama doing a great job as Sadako while Seiichi Tanabe (Toyama), Kumiko Aso (Etsuko), and Kaoru Okunuki (Akiko) did good jobs as well. The story was interesting, with the part of there being two different Sadako’s being a good twist but they did a poor job of really explaining Sadako’s abilities, as the healing aspect seemed to come out of nowhere. I did like how the darker emotions in humanity, primarily jealousy, fear, and revenge, served as the real driving force in the movie and ended up forming Sadako into the spirit she would become. The special effects were pretty good and really helped focus the drama and tension in the scenes onto Sadako, painting her as a more tragic figure than she originally was portrayed. A surprisingly good prequel and a worthy entry into the franchise.
Rating: 4 out of 5