The most phenomenally successful Japanese horror film ever produced, Hideo Nakata's Ringu spawned no less than a television series, two sequels, and an American remake during the four short years following it's original release. In addition to igniting a trend of what many now refer to as "J-horror," Ringu propelled Nakata and such contemporaries as Kiyoshi Kurasawa (Kairo (2001), Korei (2000)) to the forefront of modern horror by emphasizing an overwhelming sense of dread and distrust of technology while avoiding the familiar horror pratfalls of gore, overuse of computer-generated graphics, and hokey self-references.
Born in Okayama, Japan, in 1961, Nakata enrolled at the University of Tokyo to study Journalism. The relocation from the countryside to the city gave Nakata access to about 300 films per year, and numerous odd jobs on movie sets found him increasingly intrigued by the process of filmmaking. Following graduation, Nakata subsequently found work as an assistant director at the infamous Nikkatsu studios, and though he showed no particular interest in becoming a horror director at that point in his career, it was under the mentorship of Masaru Konuma that Nakata received his true education in the world of film production. Nakata came into his own behind the camera with his 1992 directorial debut, the made-for-TV God's Hand, which also paired him with future Ringu writer Hiroshi Takahashi. Although it was four years before the fledgling director would make Ghost Actress, that film found Nakata exploring themes similar to those of Ringu two years later. Approached by Ringu author Suzuki Koji about adapting his novel -- the so-called Stephen King of Japan had been impressed by the director's work on Ghost Actress -- Nakata once again joined forces with Takahashi and transformed the story into a landmark film that would change the face of Japanese horror cinema. A waking nightmare that traced the mystery of a cursed videotape to one of the most terrifying figures in modern films, Ringu was a phenomenon both at home and abroad, paving the way for a successful Nakata-directed sequel. Not wanting to be pigeonholed as a genre director, however, he next utilized his skill for creating suspense to create a staggering thriller concerning the kidnapping of a wealthy businessman's wife. A nail-biting mindbender that recalled some of Alfred Hitchcock's finest moments, Chaos proved to be yet another hit for Nakata. After exploring his roots with a documentary about Konuma entitled Sadistic and Masochistic (2000), the filmmaker stepped back into the world of menacing supernatural terror with 2002's Dark Water. Similar in tone and theme to Ringu, the tale of a mother and daughter haunted by apparitions after moving into a dilapidated tenement building chilled Japanese audiences once again. Following an American version of Ringu -- The Ring (2002) -- and a planned remake Chaos starring Robert De Niro and Benicio Del Toro in 2004, it seemed as if Nakata's reputation as master of the macabre was well established, leaving terrified audiences nervously pondering his next move.