The Japanese equivalent of the Scream cycle begins with Ring, in which a videotape disseminating curious messages circles among schoolkids and leads to a series of mysterious deaths. Though it starts in familiar horror fashion, with teens being bumped off left, right and centre, its heroes turn out to be a single-mum journalist and her ex-husband, a troubled academic. Major plot details are hidden in that tape, which undergoes the same obsessive scrutiny as the recordings in The Conversation or the photographs in Blow-Up; these fraught-to-fevered sessions of media analysis actually form the most compelling scenes, and the film loses a lot when the couple go out on the road to track down those who may or may not be responsible for the vicious VHS. Shot mostly in deathly silence, with ambient noise taking the place of incidental music, it's at best creepy rather than especially scary, with a couple of subtle shocks in the distorted photographs of the tape's victims and the audio message concealed amid the tape's white noise. The film's own message, which must be profoundly reassuring to all Japanese parents, appears to be: don't stay up late watching TV when you've got school in the morning.
Ring returns to selected cinemas from tomorrow.