Haunted tapes, killer copies – cinematic ghosts in Ringu and The Ring

Marisa Mourinha


In 2002, Gore Verbinski's remake of Hideo Nakata's 1998 film Ringu was released, under the name of The Ring. The film is based on a successful Japanese novel, about a ghost who kills whoever watches a cursed video tape. Narratively, as well as aesthetically, both films struck a chord with their intended audiences, and were extremely successful. They also seem to have started a trend in Western remakes of Asian movies, and have fueled an interest in Japanese horror.

With this paper, we set out to analyze how these films deal with their respective ghosts. Our focus will be on the way the management of the cinematic specters in these two cases relates to tradition and, particularly, how the killer ghost who haunts the tape is steeped in Japanese tradition – not only in film, but also in folklore and traditional forms of Japanese theatre, like kabuki and bunraku.

While avoiding to dwell excessively on inputs marked by a psychoanalytical matrix, we argue that the ambiguity of the ghostly in the Japanese culture enhances the feeling of uncanniness these representations are infused with and that, even with the differences brought on by the American rendition, they present us with an innovative and enticing version of the ghostly.


Ringu; The Ring; onryō; ghost; horror.

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