When investigating the sudden and inexplicable death of his wife’s colleague’s daughter, Tokyo-based English journalist Mitchell discovers a story surrounding a cursed videotape, where all who view it become fated to die exactly seven days afterwards. After inadvertently dooming himself, Mitchell must uncover the mystery behind the tape’s existence if he wants any hope of survival.
Chances are you’re already familiar with Ring, be it through the sublime 1998 Japanese horror movie or its above average American remake from 2002. This radio play, however, hews far closer to Koji Suzuki’s original novel than either film version, swapping surreal visuals for mounting dread and retaining the sense of growing menace, becoming all the more joyfully disturbing as a result.
A sibilant voice narrates the story in a heavy Japanese accent, and remains perpetually sinister regardless of whether it’s innocuously describing character actions when dialogue and sound effects are not enough, or pronouncing more ominous utterances like echoed whispers of portentous declarations (“You will be consumed by the lost”). As events progress, the descriptive language becomes increasingly poetic (“Mitchell follows the rope of the teeth of hell, every stone a demon face”) as though the story has become part of the videotape’s legend, its infamy requiring each retelling to be more dramatic than the last.
The abstract images of the cursed video are obviously a highly visual aspect of the story, but here they are instead represented by distorted audio of unidentifiable sounds and the screams of human anguish and torment, as though a nightmare has been pulled directly from someone’s subconscious and burned onto tape for all to endure. Shackled to the solving of a puzzle that may not even have a solution, Mitchell’s panic soon escalates as his quite literal deadline approaches. First the days and then the hours are inexorably counted down, and as his frantic search for answers intensifies you’re torn between wanting him to save himself while at the same time becoming intrigued and eager to find out what will happen if he doesn’t.
Ring was recorded with a binaural mix, a kind of 3D stereo that, when experienced through headphones, creates the sensation of being surrounded by sound. So, instead of gorging yourself on chocolate, terrorising children with fake corpse limbs or continuing that slasher movie marathon, how about finishing off Halloween with something a little bit different. Plug in your ears, turn off the lights and let an hour of immersive audio horror be piped directly into your brain.
Ring will be broadcast on Radio 4 at 11:00pm on Saturday October 31st and can then be found at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p035kml2.
RING / DIRECTOR: JAMES ROBINSON / WRITER: ANITA SULLIVAN / STARRING: MATTHEW GRAVELLE, AKIRA KOIEYAMA, NAOKO MORI, EVE MYLES, YURIRI NAKA, MASASHI FUJIMOTO / BROADCASTER: BBC RADIO 4 / BROADCAST DATE: OCTOBER 31ST