One of the moments I fell in love with horror was watching The Ring at the cinema – few moments made me fear the director like the false sense of security before Samara bursts out of the TV screen. Since then I’ve seen numerous versions of the story, including the Japanese trilogy, the American remake and its sequel, the Korean one, the Sadako 3D films, the novels and even Ring and Grudge crossover Sadako vs. Kayako. As such I was one of few people on my Facebook who was genuinely excited by the thought of another. I was even more excited to get the chance to talk about it with the director Javier Gutiérrez.
How do you bring something new to such a long series?
When I joined the project they were already working on the draft to address that – when I got a call from the producers, and they said they wanted to make a new Ring movie, first thing that came to me was that it’s a film about a curse that goes through a form of media. So it made sense to make a new version today because. I wanted to explore what’s happening in the society we have now that we have screens everywhere: computers, i-pads, cell phones. So the technology makes for a new arena for this type of story so it was exciting to play with that and see what we can do with Samara. Because obviously you have to break the mold and try new things. That balance to keep the classic Ring feel was important, because it’s a Ring movie at the end of the day. So it’s still a mystery, it’s a thriller. But at the same time we had to update the movie – we wanted a new take that was very fresh.
It’s an interesting take, seeing Samara treated as a meme, and very close to the books. Which is always nice.
Yeah, see the original started with 2 students in college, and they’re talking about a curse video, and it’s almost like Scream. Then the movie changes and other characters show up to investigate, then it goes with them. So in this one we wanted to go to the original environment, where the Ring video appeared, and explore what’s happening in college. But not in 2000, but in 2017 where there’s now a lot of chance to play with all the technology on campus. So these are the elements we were willing to explore – but same time it was a challenge to balance it out and to bring something fresh that the old fans understand and embrace because it respects the original.
The seven days makes an interesting contrast to your last film, Before the Fall, where the characters have 3 days ‘til the end of the world.
I never thought of that ‘til later, like after I finished the movie I realised. Before the Fall is darker, because an independent European movie. But they have a common point in the characters know they’re going to die – so the intensity you play with as a director is the decision people make knowing they’re going to die. I think it’s something that, in a lot of aspects, interests me as a filmmaker and as a human being too. Like in Before The Fall how the lead character could decide to do the right thing at the end of his life, but it’d cost him for 3 days. And in this movie Julia, because of her emotional connection with Holt, decides to take the curse knowing she’d have 7 days before she dies. So when that point happens it’s a similar basis to Before the Fall because everything else has to happen in that space of time and our lead knows they have to embrace the fact they might actually die. So in the core ideas something is there, though I didn’t explore it the same way – this is an American horror so I didn’t go as far as Before the Fall. But I think there’s something to this. We’re cursed – we all know we’re going to die.
What was it going from this reasonably small indie European movie to this big US franchise?
In Europe, as you know, we work independently and can go into darker corners – sometimes they’re not comfortable and you can push them too much. But that’s the beauty of the freedom being independent gives you. And you can just have fun as a filmmaker. When you enter into the Hollywood world, and especially talking about a franchise, so it already has established the rules, you have to combine throughout the whole process. It’s more like a team pulling together to produce the best version of the movie. So as a filmmaker it’s been quite a challenge to work like that. But there’s a lot of fun too, and getting to know yourself as a filmmaker and a professional. As a filmmaker I like the idea of working in Hollywood, but same time I am willing to go back and forth to go independent so I can explore certain things that may not be commercial, but I want to develop. This lets me have much more intense personal input, so it’s a balance. Both worlds are exciting in different ways.
The Ring’s of course not just Hollywood, given it’s Asian origins, so when it came to honouring that part what parts of Japanese horror did you want to import?
The Ring movie has something very unique, which originally attracted me to these movies, and that’s the power of The Ring video. It’s cool and pretty fascinating. When you see the original movie it’s scary – there’s these symbols you don’t really understand. Both American movies do a really good job, translating that Japanese culture. So I wanted to do the same thing and grasp those surreal moments. For me the cool idea is this surrealism and the lack of rationality. I’ve explored this through filmmakers I grew up with from Spain, and painters like Dali, so I played with this in the new video. Have you seen it yet?
I’m seeing it tomorrow.
Ah right – well I tried to inject a little bit of that surrealism from the Japanese one, that Gore Verbinski kept there, and give it a flavour of Luis Buñuel. That uncomfortable feeling without being too uncomfortable for a wide audience. You can see glimpses of that in the bits we show the audience when Juliet is watching the new video. So I think these moments of a lack of rationality and surrealism come from the Japanese culture and also painters. It’s this structure and a way of thinking that’s very different that I tried hard to preserve in the bottom layers of this movie. It has a lot of levels with elements of classic horrors and classic thrillers, but I hope that it reminds people of that feeling.
Thank you, I look forward to seeing it tomorrow.
Thanks so much.
Rings is at the cinema now