The untold truth of The Ring

The Ring is one of the most influential horror movies of recent years. About a cursed tape, and a girl who comes out of the screen after seven days, it inspired countless parodies, and sparked the trend of Americans remaking Japanese horror movies. But how did this weird remake come to be? What's the origin story of Samara and her curse?

The films are based on a series of novels

The original Japanese film Ringu wasn't the first appearance of a spooky girl and her cursed videotape. In fact, it's an adaptation of a 1991 Japanese novel by Koji Suzuki, the first in a series of six. Since the first novel wasn't translated and published in America as Ring until 2003, a year after the American remake The Ring and five years after the original Ringu, the book was inaccessible to most American fans of the film.

Five out of the six novels have been adapted into films, but unfortunately not in America. In America, while we do now have three separate Ring movies, only the first was based in anyway on the books — and even then, it's pretty different. The book deals with a curse that mixed with a virus to kill, while the movie has an out-and-out ghost. The American film is more supernatural, while the Japanese book series is more sci-fi. Believe it or not, the iconic image of a girl crawling through a TV screen wasn't in the original novel — Ringu invented that unsettling set piece, which did for giant '90s TVs what Pennywise the clown in It did for sewer grates.

The books get weird

So, there's six books in Ring series, and they're probably all pretty repetitive, right? A cursed tape, you die in seven days if you watch it? That just happens over and over again? Not exactly. The first two books do deal directly with the cursed girl and the tape, but then the series goes off the rails.

Eventually, you find out that all of the events with Sadako (the name of the Samara character in the novels and Japanese films), the video tape, and all the characters who have fought and died, are actually only living in a simulated reality designed by scientists. However, this simulated reality has somehow made Samara's curse real, and it's infecting scientists working on the project, as a form of cancer. Whoops!

There's also a short story collection, Birthday, which was partially adapted into the prequel film Ring 0: Birthday in Japan. Another book deals with a character who was created by the computer that simulated Samara's reality. The name of that computer? LOOP. That's also the name of that book, the third in the series. And the second book? It's called Spiral. Get it? Ring, Spiral, Loop? Appropriate, considering the dizzying plot twists.

There's a TV series

The Ring series is really popular in America, but it's easy to underestimate how popular it is in Japan. Over there, it's like the horror Harry Potter. Not only that, the first movie was so popular, it was turned into a television series. Can you imagine a television adaptation of Harry Potter coming out now? (Actually, yeah, yeah we can. Hey, J.K., get on that, will ya?)

The original Ringu was adapted into a thirteen-episode miniseries successful enough to get a second series — unfortunately not based on any of the other books — that was also thirteen episodes long. With the television series and all of the movie adaptations, there are more on-screen versions than books, which is fitting, since the entire thing started with a cursed video tape. Maybe that's why it keeps getting remade: to spread the curse.

The Ring vs The Grudge is totally a thing

Ringu (the original Japanese version of The Ring) is super popular, super scary, super awesome, and very Japanese. But it's not the only cursed-child J-Horror flick that Americans know about. The Grudge (or Ju-On in Japan) is a film series about a cursed home where a child was drowned, his mother was murdered, and the hate that went into this created a curse on the house itself. Wouldn't it be cool, a 14-year-old probably thought, if the kid from The Grudge and the kid from The Ring got together and punched each other a bunch? Yes, we think that would be awesome.

And so did the Japanese, because they made a movie called Sadako vs. Kayako (the names of the ghost kids in each film in Japan) in the vein of Freddy vs. Jason. It's about the two cursed kids attempting to kill two women, both of whom have managed to get in the sights of both cursed kids. Sadly, there is much less punching than you'd think. It's more "and" than "versus."

At the end, the two women attempt to trap them in the well that Samara died in, but accidentally merge them together into one huge monstrous ghost that kills everyone. Now why didn't we get that movie instead of The Rings?

There are two video game adaptations

Ringu/The Ring doesn't seem like the sort of thing that would easily lend itself towards being made into a video game, given that it is about people who watch a tape and then wait to be killed by a ghost that comes out of a television. What do you do in that video game? Just walk around town, eat donuts, and wait for the GAME OVER screen? Actually, that kinda sounds fun.

But, no, apparently, that's not what you do in The Ring: Terror's Realm, a 2000 Dreamcast game, or The Ring: Infinity, which came out the same year for the WonderSwan, a Japan-only handheld. In The Ring: Terror's Realm, you play a CDC worker who attempts to get to the bottom of the Ring mythos during a quarantine. It's like Resident Evil if Resident Evil was made by a no-name studio, with zero money, attempting to capitalize on a movie about a cursed VHS. There's even a giant mutant monster as the final boss, which is what everyone loved about the original Ringu — the giant mutant monster.

The Ring: Infinity, though, is much more like the films, and the original book series. It's a visual novel, which, on the WonderSwan, means it's a bit like a Choose Your Own Adventure book with some crummy, black-and-white 16-bit graphics. Your character watches the cursed tape, naturally, and then needs to figure out a way to live, or else she'll die. Granted, then you won't be playing a video game based on Ringu/The Ring, so that sounds like a happy ending to us.

Samara is Lilo

Believe it or not, there was an actual child playing Samara and not just a CGI version of malevolence and fear. She's played by an actress named Daveigh Chase, who has has continued to act into adulthood. But almost nothing she's starred in was as cool or interesting or as well known as The Ring. Oh, except for Lilo & Stitch ... where she played Lilo.

Yep, that's right: the little girl who befriends a monster and helps him learn the meaning of family was played by the same girl who screeched and killed people after being trapped at the bottom of the well by her own family. Look, we're not saying we're surprised that child actors in horror flicks do more than one role in their life, we're just ... no, that, actually, is exactly what we're saying.

Samara was inspired by a real person

After watching The Ring, you'd think there's no way on God's green Earth that there's anyone out there like Samara, even a little bit. Except, here's the thing: she was inspired by a real person. Samara was inspired by the experiments of Tomokichi Fukurai, who investigated this thing called Thoughtography, which sounds basically like what it is. Wait — it sounds like absolute gibberish.

We'll attempt an explanation: thoughtography is the idea that you can somehow psychically project images and ideas from your mind onto surfaces, the minds of others, and even onto film. That's basically what Samara does in The Ring, right? She puts her thoughts, experiences, and even her blinks onto a tape that then gets her curse cooties all over it. Tomokichi Fukurai found this woman named Sadako Takahashi who said she could use thoughtography, and she convinced Fukurai that she could. Unfortunately, she didn't convince too many others. However, she did inspire Koji Suzuki, the author of the first novel the films are based on, Ring, which is why Samara is named Sadako in Japan. So now you know who is actually responsible for those nightmares.