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DVD Review

Asia Extreme Originals Box Set
Ring / Dark Water / Premonition


Starring: Nanako Matsushima, Hiroyuki Sanada, Hitomi Kuroki, Rio Kanno, Hiroshi Mikami and Noriko Sakai
Tartan Asia Extreme
RRP: £19.99
Certificate: 18
Available 24 March 2008

It was only a matter of time before the more popular Japanese ghost stories were grouped together to capture a new audience. Asia Extreme has started off well here with three strong examples of supernatural horror.

The Ring, directed by Hideo Nakata, was the chiller which began this whole new sub-genre. Dark Water, like The Ring (or more properly Ringu) is based on a novel by Koji Suzuki, and is also handled by Nakata. Premonition is the oddball here, but no less impressive for it. It's directed by Norio Tsurata, who helmed the third Ring film, Ring 0, which acted as a prequel.

Each of these films have been remade more recently for the short-sighted Hollywood market. But, mark my words, they are not a patch on these original Japanese versions and, in the case of Premonition makes changes to the Tsurata script.

In The Ring, after a schoolgirl dies in a rictus of terror a female journalist called Asakawa investigates the modern legend of a video which kills the viewer after a week. She discovers that four friends stayed at a cabin, watched a video and died a week later. When she traces the cabin, she finds the video and watches a series of strange images surrounding a well, a woman in a mirror and an eruption. Immediately it is finished the phone rings and she knows she only has a week to live...

The woman in the mirror is discovered to be Shizuko. More than 30 years earlier a Dr Ikuma had arranged a demonstration of her E.S.P. for the press. The results were amazing, but one reporter started a near riot by calling the test a hoax. The reporter dropped dead, but Shizuko was as surprised as anyone and realised it was her daughter Sadako, who had been in hiding.

People called Sadako a monster as people often died around her. When Shizuko died Dr Ikuma adopted her as his illegitimate child. Now, Asakawa is searching for answers in a race against time which is made more desperate when she learns her little boy has watched the video. She guesses that Sadako was killed and sealed in the well, and thinks that if she finds the body her life will be saved. But what if that doesn't end the curse and her time runs out?

Ring made quite an impact when it first emerged in 1998. Hideo Nakata gave us something almost totally different to what we had become accustomed to. It's essentially a ghost story, but gives us both new and old legends as well as an investigation against the clock. The American remake, although pretty good, failed to recapture the pace and storytelling skills of this Japanese original.

Nakata's groundbreaking horror is creepy whilst remaining tasteful. Unlike many Hollywood directors he also knows how to command the scenario of time running out. One or two people about to die somehow carries more tension than an entire facility, or indeed the entire world, going up in flames. The suspense of being trapped on an island during a storm with little more than a day remaining is very well handled, as is the draining of the well as the sun sets outside. This fantastic film drops one point as there are no extras on this disc.


In Dark Water, a woman undergoing divorce and a legal battle for custody, moves with her infant daughter into an old tenement building. Pretty soon a small damp patch on the ceiling begins to drip water and spreads, growing progressively worse. This coincides with half-seen glimpses of a little girl in a yellow raincoat, and the regular appearance of a child's red bag. Everything seems to point to the apartment above and the mysterious disappearance of a kindergarten girl years before. But the woman and her daughter find themselves irrevocably entangled in a cry from beyond the grave.

This is another watery tale from the pen of Koji Suzuki (another can be seen in Series 2 of Masters of Horror). A good, strong ghost story with a contemporary setting; however, the story would perhaps work much better as a short, as it seems a little stretched-out as a feature-length film. Admittedly, the ending is creepy, but not to the extent of The Ring or The Grudge. No extras aside from a trailer on this disc either.


In Premonition, when a man finds a scrap of newspaper in a phone box, which reports the death of his young daughter in a car accident only a minute later, he stands horrified as events unfold exactly as they were predicted. Three years later, he and his wife are divorced. While she conducts research into precognitive powers, he continues to be plagued by mysterious scraps of newsprint for disasters which have not yet occurred. The pair soon discover that previous individuals have suffered similar experiences, culminating in rapid ageing and mass psychosis. So, with time rapidly running out, they attempt to get to the bottom of the frightening phenomenon, and this involves experiencing the original tragic accident again and again.

This is the third time I've watched the film, and repeated viewing in no way tarnishes what amounts to an immaculately crafted supernatural chiller. I purchased Premonition upon its first release on region 2 DVD in 2006, when it emerged as part of the new J-Horror range, and still feel it's as close to the structural perfection of The Ring and The Eye as we've seen - with only Ju-on: The Grudge, Pulse and The Ghost of Mae Nak coming anywhere near this elite group.

The acting, particularly of the key character, is intense, giving the viewer in turns, horror, grief, shock and sadness. Time appears to play games with the protagonist, as he finds himself jumping between all the major locations he's found himself in over the last three years, before appearing back at the telephone box prior to the occurrence of the original accident.

Premonition contains beautifully staged scenes which steadily build the tension, bringing a real panicky sense of time running out. For much of the film ambient sounds are utilised rather than music, creating a palpable atmosphere. There are plenty of scary jolts, none of which are cheap shots, being very much conducive to the plot.

This disc contains Cast & Crew Interviews; Behind the Scenes; Digital Effects Exposed; Japanese Press Conference; and the Original Trailer - hence the extra point. This set could only have been improved by replacing Dark Water with the original East Asian version of either The Grudge or The Eye.


Ty Power

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