The Story: Journalist Sun-joo's niece suddenly dies one day. The young girl was found in her closet, having torn her hair out, apparently dying from a heart attack. The family is, needless to say, devastated, and Sun-joo takes up the responsibility of putting some of her nieces affairs in order. Her nieces pager has one message "We shouldn't have watched it.", and then, Sun-joo finds out the friends her niece spent the previous weekend with are all dead too, seemingly from he same strange affliction. Sun-joo visits the local coroner, an eccentric man, Dr. Choi, who believes there is no real medical explanation for the deaths other than something supernatural.
Sun-joo visits the resort where her niece and friends spent the weekend. There, she finds a tape they had in the room and pops it into the vcr. What she sees on the tape is a succession of blurry, bizarre images, accompanied by text. Near the end of the tape it says "Whoever watches this tape will die exactly one week from now..... If you want to live..." and then the tape cuts off. Instictively, Sun-joo knows that the message is deadly serious. The only person she feels safe about showing the tape is Dr. Choi, who now assumes, like her, they need to find out where the tape came from and what was the message that was taped over. Together they pool their talents and begin to investigate the tape, decipher its vague clues before their week is up, and the source of this mystery is far stranger than they could have imagined.
The Film: Okay here is the story- The Japanese horror film sensation The Ring (1996 aka Ringyu) was a big hit, spawning sequels and many imitators. The story originated as a novel first, and before the film, the novel had been adapted into a tv movie... Ring: Virus(1999) is basically an "official" Korean/Japanese co-produced remake of The Ring. And, since the basic tale has so many sources, each one is different in their own way. There are many changes to the story in Ring: Virus, essentially making it less a remake, than a re-telling, the central idea being the same. So, Ring: Virus is not so much a straight rehash, its like the difference between Vanilla Sky and Open Your Eyes or maybe even Yojimbo and Fistful of Dollars. And, the remakes wont stop, since there is also an American version of The Ring that was recently completed.
Enjoyment of Ring: Virus pretty much centers around how much you like supernatural horror films. That is, how much suspension of disbelief do you have? Can you forgive a convoluted, kind of silly plot and give in to the chills? You have to be like the characters in the film, who upon watching the tape, immediately begin to worry, they instantly have faith that this thing is bad news.
The film does have atmosphere in spades, sort of like one part X-Files one part Thesis. And, it almost solely depends on that atmosphere to carry the horror of the film, as opposed to gore or a villainous performance. For me, the story was a tad too messy, especially as they get into the actual source of the tape and possible solutions to breaking its spell, as well as a typical "its not really over" horror film ending. I was impressed by its style, but it didn't get me wrapped up in it like say The Shining, Phenomena, or the original Haunting. But, recent Korean horror films have been entertaining me, and despite my little grumbles, they are making quite a few really solid good horror films, like this one, and considering the sad state of American horror, it is really quite welcome. Still, its just not the original, a more bland flavor compared to to film that started the success.
The DVD: From Bitwin DVD Korea.
Picture- Letterboxed. 16X9. The first reel had quite a few white specs, but they ceased after awhile. Overall the print is pretty dirty, with some grain, very minor softness, and occasional lines. But, they are forgivable flaws, especially for fans of foreign films, and the transfer shows great black levels, strong color, and fair sharpness. I was really impressed with the cinematography, many neat scenes in storms, rain, snow, and well composed dark scenes.
Sound- 5.1 Dolby Digital Korean audio with optional Japanese or English subtitles. Sound is strong and clear, effectively enhancing the spooky mood. The subs had a few flaws like, "We've uncovered allot." but overall they weren't abundant.
Extras- 7 Chapters- A menu- That's it.