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Ring 2 - There is a strong connection between water and the supernatural

Feature by: Jack Foley

JAPAN is proving to be a fertile hunting ground for Hollywood horror movies nowadays, given the success of recent remakes such as The Ring and The Grudge.

Increasingly, the American market seems to be turning to different cultures to generate the biggest frights, even employing the services of the Japanese film-makers themselves to get the best results.

The Grudge, for example, marked the first-time that the Japanese director of the original, Takashi Shimizu, was asked to direct the remake.

While Ring 2, the American follow-up to Gore Verbinski's remake of The Ring, is being directed by Hideo Nakata, the man responsible for the original Japanese Ringu trilogy.

So why is it that Japanese horror is proving so popular with world-wide cinema-goers?

"Well I would analyse this kind of trend as being that American and European young audiences have now become more patient, or tolerant," explained Nakata, at a recent London press conference for Ring 2.

"I would call Asian horror movies quiet horror movies. They are very quiet, in terms of soundtrack, and also much subtler in terms of scare expectance.

"Sometimes in our horror movies, the ghost can just stand behind the main character and just stare at the main character and do nothing but still look scary.

"Probably, if it were 10 years ago, American and European young audiences wouldn't be scared by these quiet ghosts, but now they have become more tolerant and more patient.

"I think they find it more interesting because they're slightly bored with American mainstream splatter or gore movies."

Needless to say, The Ring 2 went straight to the top of the US Box Office when it was released in March, easily surpassing the opening weekend take of its predecessor.

Yet even though Nakata seemed like an obvious choice to direct, he still had to follow the Hollywood rule book whereby the film was submitted to test audiences before being re-edited in post-production.

The director viewed this as both a curse and a blessing.

"The major concern would be where each scene is boring, or which parts feel slow," he explained.

"The audience would indicate this scene, or this scene, and then we're kind of almost forced to change the scene. Sometimes it works and sometimes I felt like it may have been a mistake.

"But Hollywood movies are destined to be distributed universally so we have to make sure a movie will be accepted universally. Test screening is a necessary process."

Nakata admits to finding his Hollywood debut a little overwhelming at first but now hopes to continue working in both America and Japan.

And the omens look good, particularly as America continues to turn to the director's work for inspiration.

Another of his films, Dark Water, has already been remade for release in the Summer, with Walter Salles directing and Jennifer Connelly starring, which again looks set to use traditional Japanese scare tactics to terrifying effect.

Principal among these tactics is the use of water, which features prominently in both Ring 2 and Dark Water.

When asked to explain its relevance to the horror genre, Nakata comments:

"When I was a boy I was always fascinated by water and how it can change drastically when the typhoon comes - the river gets higher and the speed of the river becomes very high and muddy. I was always fascinated by the water somehow.

"But I think we all live on an island and then we have lots of disasters, such as the recent tsunami, typhoons, and then because of typhoons, landslides and river floods, so I would say almost on a sub-conscious level, we have a fear of water.

"Water can be very violent. And, of course, the ocean, or water, scientifically speaking is the mother of life, but it also takes an enormous amount of life.

"I think Japanese people all share that kind of fear, although we don't say that clearly in our daily life, but we do have lots of casualties. So that's a reality-based feeling towards water.

"And Japanese ghosts are supposed to appear wherever the water exists, like in the fog, or in the mist, or the riverside, or the seaside. So there is a strong connection between water and the supernatural."

The Ring 2 opens in cinemas on April 4.

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