I’m one of maybe two people that think this, but I thought the American version was truly superior to the Japanese version. Perhaps if I’d seen the Japanese version first, I would have appreciated it more, but I didn’t. So Ringu didn’t have quite the scare power. In fact, it was good for a quick fright, and then you went home (scanning the shadows for any sign of Sadako). The Ring, however, continues to give me nightmares.
As far as I’m concerned, the colors, the directing, the effects, the music (which was very “watery” – listen to a dishwasher, in fact, and it sounds very much like the backdrop to the American version), and everything else was superior in the American version. In fact, the American version was wraught with symbolism, hidden connections, and everything else a truly deep movie needs. I loved the significance given to the “ring” in that it was the top of the well as Samara saw it. I wasn’t sure what the “ring” was supposed to signify in Ringu, actually, though I’ve heard it refers to the telephone ringing.
The whole American movie felt continuous to me–all of it being connected by the significance of the “Ring.” It was as everything was seen from a well, orchestrated from the well, and that whatever it was lying in that well was the source of true, complete evil. In the Japanese version, the ring had little to no significance, and the entire thing was rendered silly, even, by the “psychic powers” of two of the three main characters. This “psychic ability” was underplayed more in the American version, and I thought this made it more believable.
Also, in Ringu, it was easier to like Sadako…to see her as seeking revenge, perhaps, or as being frightened of the possibilities of her power. Perhaps she was a little girl dragged into a scientific frenzy. Samara, however…she was pure evil. There was no motive for her except that she LIKED to terrorize, and to me, this is far more frightening. When there is no other motive accept pure evil, or pure thrill, then it’s far more difficult for the human mind to process. We WANT to like Sadako. We DON’T want to like Samara. So Samara is scary.
In addition, we have basic Jungian archetypes in the American version that work to subconsciously terrorize the viewer. The director scares the hell out of us by killing everything that we recognize as safe. For instance, horses symbolize physical health in Jung’s psychodynamics. Mothers signify spiritual health. Basically, with the horses and the mother purposely killing themselves in very dramatic ways, we are watching everything we associate with kindness, beauty, goodness, and strength DIE.
I don’t want to write a book (too late), but I just had to go on record with this opinion. The Japanese Ringu was good for a fright (in fact Sadako is down right horrifying at the end of the film), but The Ring has continued to give me nightmares even now. It made me jump in the theatre, but it also makes me shiver at night.