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“Ring” is an electric specter of crawling flesh

Updated: Oct 3, 2023

Malcolm Streitfeld

Anchor Staff Writer


Horror is more of a multipurpose genre than some may think. A horror story can not only scare, but also inspire and teach us about threats we may have to face in the future. Koji Suzuki’s horror novel, “Ring,” provides a perfect time capsule of a nation still recovering from a tragedy that occurred decades ago. But, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s dive into what the book is about first and foremost.


“Ring” follows Kazuyuki Asakawa, a journalist who upon receiving news of the death of his niece, Tomoko Oishi, journeys across Japan. He is quickly wrapped up in a conspiratorial web involving a cursed video tape and four teenagers who died of heart attacks a week after watching the tape. That, however, doesn’t begin to cover the intricate forces at work behind these murders. As Asakawa investigates, the resulting discoveries only lead to more questions. Soon, Asakawa’s sanity is put to the test and the dark well he finds himself in becomes harder to climb out of. Because this is a mystery novel, that’s all I can say about the plot without spoilers, so let’s move on, shall we?


Koji Suzuki was born in 1957, twelve years after the United States dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This is pure speculation on my part, but I wonder if growing up in an era where people were still rightfully afraid of the dangers of radiation poisoning might’ve influenced Suzuki when he wrote “Ring.” I say this because “Ring” is, at its core, about an invisible lingering threat that haunts the protagonist at every turn and affects him in ways he doesn’t even realize. Set in the 1990’s, the main plot revolves around a tragedy that happened years prior which continues to claim countless lives. I think I am starting to see what Suzuki might’ve been getting at when it comes to the main message of this book. Some wounds are never healed by time, some continue to lurk in the background, casting a dark cloud over society as a whole.

Image by Malcolm Streitfeld

“Ring” is also fascinating because it would not be as scary if written today. Very few people in the 21st century use tapes and VCRs, but back in the 90’s, that was still fairly common. Thus, people were more susceptible to the scare-factor of “Ring.” If you tried to “update” the book through an adaptation or spinoff that replaced the tapes with a cell phone, you’d lose what makes the book so unique. By being so ingrained in the era in which it’s written, “Ring” freezes its characters and events in a set moment of time. Maybe that’s why it feels like everyone in the book is holding their breath, waiting for something to occur. Time seems to move at a snail’s pace, even when heart-racing events occur. The atmosphere of the book is dreamlike and hazy. Reading it is like wading through the ocean at night, desperately trying to find your way through the fog. I guarantee that readers, much like Asakawa, will be constantly on edge. You won’t be able to tear your eyes from the pages and by the end will be left with more questions than answers.


Suzuki is a master of minimalist horror. Even during the parts of the book set in empty locations where nothing is happening, I felt very on edge. I will say those were probably the scariest segments, precisely because I didn’t know what I was so afraid of. We’ve all had those moments of being somewhere alone, where all that can be heard is natural sound, and those moments are truly frightening.


I am reminded of when I was walking with my mom and our dogs in Lime Rock nature preserve. She told me to stay behind while she went on ahead with the dogs, and I agreed. I stood there in the woods, waiting, listening to the chirping in the trees. After a few minutes, my mom still hadn’t returned and I started to panic. I called out to her but all I got in response was the rustling of leaves. She did eventually return and apologize but that was still scary for me. This feeling of being alone in an eerily empty space, is what Suzuki capitalizes on.


Pick up “Ring” today if you’re ready to plumb the depths of that ancient well, scrabbling around desperately in the dirt for answers. Trust me, it’ll leave you shocked.



Video by Malcolm Streitfeld

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