Of all the sequels and remakes to the first Ring film, Ring: The Spiral is the most successfully different. Filmed and released at the same time as the first film, it presents a kind of counter-story to the one dominated by Sadako in the rest of the franchise. Which isn’t to say the unfortunate supernatural wretch doesn’t make an appearance via the VHS fantastic and cause relentless, impossible strife. It’s just that this is really a film about a man’s grief over the premature death of his young son.
Like Ring 2, there is a lot of emphasis here on futile scientific explanations for the kinds of repressed psychological conditions that Sadako represents. These involve deviations into genetics and the topic of cloning — still a relatively unexplored subject in contemporary cinema (Gattaca and Alien: Resurrection are two notable exceptions).
The mystery of Sadako is presented in comparison with narrative puzzles concerning genetics/DNA and thus Mitsuo is drawn into a helix/spiral of his own devising. What he discovers is that Sadako’s malevolent power can have a benevolent twist, and that a conscious discarding of reason can help irrational decisions lead to emotional gains.
An intelligent thriller rather than a horror film, Spiral shows how the story of Sadako, such a peculiar mix of ideas, can shift in multiple directions of interest. It effectively changes our perspective of the franchise but suggests that new approaches to the same material can expose a range of similar social problems.