The Ring Companion

Author: Denis Meikle
Pocket Books
RRP 16.99, US $19.95
ISBN 1 84576 001 8
Available 21 October 2005

The Ring Companion attempts to explore the phenomenon that is The Ring. Director Hideo Nataka's creepy depiction of a virus of supernatural origin was a whirlwind success, breaking box office records in it's native Japan as well as across East Asia. But the film was based on a book by Koji Suzuki, which itself had two sequels, Spiral and Loop. There were three official films (the original, Ring; the sequel, Ring 2; and the prequel, Ring 0 - Birthday), American versions of Ring 1 and 2, a different Japanese sequel to The Ring called Rasen (Spiral) from director Joji Iida, The Ring Virus, Ring: Kanzenban, Ring: The Final Chapter, and a 13-part TV series called Rasen. Confused?

Well, this is where the book's main strength comes in, by delving deeply into each offering and giving the reader easy to understand chapter-sized nuggets of chronology and continuity. The writer, Denis Meikle, cleverly names his chapters Day One to Day Seven. It begins by giving a background of Japanese horror mythology, and Suzuki's and Nataka's possible influences, including the famous writer of ghost stories, M.R. James, and how the presence of other films can aid or temporarily kill a genre.

There are detailed synopses of each version and comments and explanations from those involved in the respective book or film. Reading the synopsis of the first book makes you realise how it is subtly different from Nataka's film (and it's not just the main character's change of sex). A lot becomes clear, because certain scenes which are a little ambiguous in the films, form part of the back-story in the first book.

A latter section of this book investigates the recent tidal wave of Japanese supernatural horror in the wake of the success of The Ring. There is Ju-on: The Grudge; A Tale of Two Sisters; Phone; One Missed Call; Ghosts; The Eye (not strictly Japanese, but hey-ho), which you simply must see because it's brilliant; and even Hideo Nataka's own Dark Water. There is also a section exploring the final infamous scene in The Ring, when Sadako emerges from the well on screen before climbing out of the TV screen, paralysing the victim with fear.

I think I mentioned before in my review of The Ring Trilogy 4-disc dvd set, that supernatural horror is currently the only sub-genre left that creates real scares (fear of the unknown, and all that), and the Japanese are quite simply the best in the world at it right now.

The Ring Companion will probably appeal more to people who have some experience of the films or books, because it becomes a vested interest. If I had to choose a downside to this book it would have to be the absence of colour photos to accompany the text. However, it's a minor quibble as there are plenty of monochrome pictures, and I would much rather have a book jam-packed with interesting information than oversize "cashing-in" photographs.

A superb book from Titan Publishing, which I look forward to sitting down with and reading more properly when I have the time."Frolic in brine, goblins be thine."

Ty Power

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