2002 - PG-13 - Mins.
|Director: Gore Verbinski
|Producer: Walter F. Parkes, Laurie MacDonald, J.C. Spink
|Written By: Ehren Kruger, Scott Frank
|Starring: Naomi Watts, Martin Henderson, Brian Cox, Shannon Cochran, Lindsay Frost
|Review by: David Trier
Before you die, you will inevitably see The Ring. And if it doesn't kill you, the long list of movies it flat out robs from ought to make you feeling at the very least a little ill.
When self-important journalist Rachel (Naomi Watts) learns that her niece has died for no apparent reason, she is encouraged to investigate. She soon discovers that the deceased had watched a video with her friends a week ago and they’ve all mysteriously died as well. The gimmick is, you watch the tape and then the phone rings and a little girl tells you that you’ll be dead in seven days. Rachel confirms this by watching the tape. What’s on the tape? A series of disturbing clips with all sorts of clues that Rachel must solve if she doesn’t want to find herself dead at the end of the week. With the help of her equally cursed scruffy friend Noah (Martin Henderson) and randomly psychic son Aidan (David Dorfman), she is able to uncover the sad and confusing story of a young girl who hasn’t been laid to rest. But is that enough?
Hey, if the purpose of a horror film is to make you uncomfortable, decomposing children are always sure winners. I’ve seen a hell of a lot of horror movies and I have to admit, the tape is a real brain-stainer. It has the kind of lingering horrific effect sick Aunt Zelda had in Pet Sematary. The special effects are tight (thanks to the awesome Rick Baker) and the film’s use of sound is one of the scariest things I’ve subjected myself to in years. The kind of scary closing your eyes only exacerbates. Naomi Watts, although not quite as upset as the circumstances would realistically dictate, generally delivers a solid performance - and she‘s pretty easy on the eyes. The rest of the cast does a fine job, including Brian Cox (the original Hannibal Lecter) as the girl’s father.
All this being said, The Ring doesn’t have an original bone in it’s body. Yes, it is based on the 90s Japanese thriller Ringu, but that shouldn’t excuse this remake from flat-out cinematic theft. The occasional film reference is tolerable when done as sort of an homage, like the superfluous shot of bloodied water circling a bathtub drain (Psycho). But The Ring tries to get away with nails slowly rising from wooden floorboards (Hellraiser - not to mention the issue of being punished for your curiosity), on-screen viewing leading to disaster (Videodrome, Halloween III), and almost the entire plot from Stir of Echoes, including a boy that communicates with the dead and clues that can only be uncovered by digging under the house. And let’s not forget Lars von Triers’ awesome Danish mini-series, The Kingdom, about a little girl whose untimely murder causes the haunting of the hospital under which she’s buried.
Most of the movie is caught up in explanations. This is most likely because the story doesn’t make any goddamn sense. I get the angry ghost story and I get the cursed videotape story, but how are they connected? At what point did this ghost decide she should make a creepy videotape? Why not a dvd? Why does the girl call you? Why not just kill you? Imagine if the gimmick was, you watch a laserdisc and then a few minutes later you’ll get an email that says you have to forward this to ten of your friends or your cat will turn into a dog in four and a half days! It really seems that arbitrary.
But credit should go where credit is due. Otherwise it just hangs around and starts to smell. Gore Verbinski does a good directing job, showing us as little as possible until it’s absolutely necessary to unleash the horror and then he lays it on well. Visual and especially audio effects are plenty satisfying and the movie is far from boring. But it’s inexplicable plot and perpetual nods and thefts from other horror movies make it a bit of an irritating watch. Scary but derivative.