Stranglehold domination of the world's cinema screens does not always belong to America, though you would never know that from the persistent Hollywood-worshipping of the British press. Other countries, when not being swamped by "E.T.", "Home Alone", and "Titanic", have their own indigenous hits. Remember "Les Visiteurs", a wonderfully dotty, Python-style fantasy about a medieval knight and his squire grappling with the modern world? No? That was one of France's biggest ever hits.
And so to "Ring", so much Japan's most successful horror film to date that it has led to a sequel, a prequel, and a ton of merchandising. It is clear why this money machine has caused queues in Japan. "Ring" taken from a hugely popular novel, is high on suggestion and so taps into the viewer's imagination with a great deal of force. Its story is constructed around a beautifully simple idea, that those who watch an extremely unnerving, grainy video (and receive a phone call immediately afterwards), will die exactly one week later, always with a severely twisted, freaked-out expression on their faces. Cue intrepid television reporter Reiko (Nanako Matsushima), who not only digs deep to find answers but is herself subjected to a chilly viewing. Enter her university teacher ex-husband as a handy intellectual sidekick, as well as their innocent, playful son who must at all costs be protected from the curse.
Yet "Ring" is no heavily-plotted, race-against-time, action thriller but an expertly controlled psychodrama in which much of the film's pulse comes from the sound of silence, and much of that springs from the characters' contemplation and gestures. Subtly expressive faces and spooky interiors are the order of the day in this original, powerful treat.