When I was thirteen years old, I saw this movie while I was flipping through the channels and thought, “Hey, I love this kind of stuff, I’ll watch!” That night I tied the doors of the cabinet that held my TV shut, covered my computer monitor with a towel and slept facing the wall. I did this for well over six months. And now I went back to watch it and review it for you…you’re welcome.
This Manic Movie Magic, we’re talking about The Ring.
Released in 2002, The Ring is about a murdered psychic girl named Samara, played by Daveigh Chase, who comes out of TVs to murder people seven days after watching a cursed tape. A journalist named Rachel, played by Naomi Watts, is asked by her sister to investigate her daughter’s tragic death at the hands of the death tape.
Rachel herself watches the film, gets a creepy call, and is subsequently marked for death, as are her son, and her love interest. They rush to find a way to save each other and free Samara…yeah, from here on out its pretty cliché. Ultimately, the ending has a little bit of a twist, but nothing so far out there you won’t see it coming.
As usual, all information below will contain some spoilers. You have been warned!
Now on paper, this sounds like a terrible plot for a horror movie, but it actually works! But why is this so scary? There are a lot of theories, and you could spend years studying the film to pinpoint the exact reason, but I run a weekly blog, so I’ll give you my theory. Director Gore Verbinski knew what he was doing, that much is clear. The film, as far as I have heard, follows the original Japanese version somewhat closely (which is more than you can say for other remakes). The film is very monotone; there are rarely ever splashes of color, and those that are subdued and dead-looking, but not to the point that makes it dull.
The premise itself is terrifying; remember when you were and little kids would dare each other to do “Bloody Mary” in their bathroom mirrors? The cursed tape is exactly like this, and now you’re doomed, truly dead-in-the-water. The seven-day period before adds frustration, fatality, and crushing despair. And finally, when she comes for you, there is nothing you can do to stop her, like the German tanks versus the Polish Horse Cavalry. You can turn off the TV, or try and unplug it, you can even run out into the street, but she’s coming for you.
A big factor is the ending. By doing the right thing, the protagonists screw themselves over! Rather than saving Samara, Rachel sets her violent, angry spirit free to wreak all the havoc she wants on people. The tape no longer confines her, she’s free to go as she likes, and that’s freaking horrifying. Samara essentially tricked Rachel into thinking she saved her soul by finding the body, just so she could still kill her boyfriend! That’s one evil little girl.
But in my opinion, the single most disturbing thing is that there is no gore involved; the deaths happen off screen and their bodies are disturbing but there’s no blood, or wounds, or anything to suggest logic into their deaths. She looked at them, and they died – no struggle, no chance to escape, to ability to fight it off, barely even enough time to scream. She looks at you, and you’re a goner, end of the story.
While it is a scary movie, it has a small problem of the plot having stupid little holes in it that are fun to pick at. For example, it’s revealed early that her parents knew she was an evil, psychic child. And what did they decide was a good idea? To throw her down a well. Really? REALLY? You’re going to try and kill her? And not just kill her, but in such a way you can’t even assure that she’s dead? She was stuck down there for a week…and she’s an evil psychic child, one who know can drive horses insane, and you just pissed her off. Did you expect it to be fine?
And also, how did she make a video tape pop out of thin air? Let alone put herself on it, and get it running into circulation? She lived on an island, a pretty isolated one at that. Did she somehow get it on the ferry? And if she could do all that, why couldn’t she use her powers to push open the slab over the well and free herself in the first place?
Acting and cinematography are on par with what these high-budget movies have, nothing laughably horrible but there’s nothing to write home about. On the technical side, there’s nothing special or especially bad about this film.
Some of you may be wondering why I don’t just review the original Japanese film Ringu. I believe that American remakes of Asian horror classics like Ringu, and Ju-On are unnecessary, and most times destroy the source material, and I’ll go into why in a later post. However, if the watered-down American version still scares me as a college student, imagine how I’d react to the original. The only way I’m going to watch it is when I’m sixty-five, live in the middle of nowhere, without a TV or phone, and the postman is in my kitchen eating a sandwich so he can take the laptop I’m viewing the movie on as soon as it’s done to send it as far away as I can.
Overall, the film is pretty scary, and is probably one of the best of the remakes to date, but still falls into the same problem as the other Americanized films – the premise is the best part, and the execution always lacks that something extra that exceeds expectation. It’s definitely one of the best films of the more current horror movies and a must-see for horror-fans losing their faith in this hit-or-miss sub genre.
Stay tuned for next week when I review Silent Hill: The Movie!