Most horror movies live and gruesomely die in the moment: the splattered head or severed limb gives viewers a quick thrill or a giggle, a jolt to the nervous system, that lingers no longer than a shiver. The films of Japanese director Hideo NakataThe Ring (1998), Ring 2 (1999), Chaos (1999) and Dark Water (2002)take a subtler route to spooking audiences. In his thrillers, Nakata concentrates less on the explosion of the time bomb than on the ticking inside it: abstract images on a videotape, an aquarium tank full of dead fish, a water stain spreading on a ceiling. His heroine-victims, often preadolescent girls, are guilty only of the original sin of being human; they may finally neither destroy nor exorcise the demons haunting them. Nakata knows dread.
The surprise about these films is not that they are artful but that they have been huge hits on screens throughout Asia and on the Western video market. Along with American hits like The Sixth Sense, they have made the coolly creepy a hot genre again. After the surprise success of a U.S. remake of The Ring in 2002, three more U.S. versions of Nakata films are on the way. Nakata will direct the American version of Ring 2, due out in November. It's a rare instance of a Japanese director making a Hollywood filman event that may fill Nakata with the anguish and wonder his own movies engender.
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