The film, about a videotape that causes anyone who watches it to die exactly seven days later, is a remake of a Japanese box-office hit, Ringu, which spawned a sequel and a prequel as well as TV and comic-book spin-offs. Its cult popularity is spreading. A screening of Ringu (not available in U.S. video stores) at a horror-film festival in New York City last week drew a sold-out house, even in the middle of a weekday afternoon. For the rest of us, DreamWorks will release the Japanese film on dvd next year. And will there be a Ring sequel? "We are certainly going to try to develop one," says Parkes.
Unlike most horror films these days, The Ring comes with no hot teen stars (just Naomi Watts, if you happened to see Mulholland Drive), a relative lack of blood and gore and a not-very-scary PG-13 rating. It also comes with little hype. Prerelease "tracking" surveys, which gauge interest in a film, were "abysmal," says Walter Parkes, co-head of DreamWorks' film division. "Forget about interest in seeing the movie; there was absolutely no awareness that the movie existed." There is now. The film, directed by Gore Verbinski, was No. 1 at the box office its first weekend. Then unheard of for a horror film it actually took in more money its second week, for a total of $39 million.