Review: The Ring
The original Japanese film of the same name is widely considered one of the scariest East Asian horror films ever made. How does the American remake stand up?
Directed by: Gore Verbinski | Written by: Ehren Kruger
Starring: Naomi Watts, Martin Henderson, David Dorfman, Daveigh Chase, Brian Cox, Jane Alexander, Lindsay Frost, Amber Tamblyn
Released: 2002 / Genre: Horror / Country: USA / IMDB
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The Hollywood idea machine may have breathed its last breath a few years ago, but that hasn’t stopped the money hungry execs busting a gut to find their next investment. In the past ten years they seem to be finding solace in the nearest comic book and obscure but interesting East Asian horror films. One such creation is a remake of the Japanese horror film Ring. It tells the story of a mysterious video tape that kills the viewer seven days after they watch it.
When journalist Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts) finds out about the death of her niece, the girl’s mother asks her to investigate her daughter’s strange death. Beginning to piece together the puzzle, it becomes apparent that her niece viewed the mystery video exactly seven days prior to her death, and that the three people she was with also died on the same day. Tracking the tape to a lodge in the middle of nowhere, Keller views its contents and immediately after receives a phone call telling her she’s got seven days to live. Now she must hunt down the video’s maker until death comes a calling for her too.
The Ring is slick, stylised 21st century horror that works a treat. Director Gore Verbinski and writer Ehren Kruger do an excellent job adapting the film for a western audience. Verbinski’s atmospheric photography is tinged in greys and cold blues, drowning the film in a foreboding, unsettling sense of impending doom. While Kruger hasn’t totally lost his Kevin Williamson inherited penchant for teens in a horror movie spouting off their angst about adolescent minds fuelled by the media of today (as was the prescribed medicine in his screenplay for Scream 3), he gets it out of his system early on then hits us with an eerie little opening that sets up the film superbly. The first ten or so minutes are terrific suspense, not unlike Scream or Candyman.
Verbinski plays with his audience’s knowledge of convention by setting up the jump-out-of-your-seat moment then denying it to prolong the tension. To his credit he also maintains the original’s ability to nestle itself under your skin, with some horrifyingly surreal shots that will linger afterward. For instance, the murderous videotape – which is a sort of David Lynch meets Sergie Eisenstein concoction of hastily edited, surreal images – is superbly realised.
One of the most interesting things about this film, and one of the major reasons why What Lies Beneath and Stir Of Echoes worked so well, is through the way the main character has to piece together the puzzle, each little piece providing that extra sliver of information as we get closer to the truth. Here, Naomi Watts, fresh from David Lynch’s Mulholland Dr., carries the film with assurance, and her journalistic investigation, like Virginia Madsen’s in Candyman, is an interesting approach. The rest of the cast do a good enough job, with Brian Cox standing out in his small role. The little kid David Dorfman, who will remind some of the Devil-boy in The Omen, proves that when ten-year-old children speak very s…l…o…w…l…y, or not at all, it can be exceedingly creepy indeed.
But The Ring isn’t perfect. The opening, although suitably tense and well-executed, suffers in retrospect from confused plot logic. Rachel’s macabre investigation also suffers pacing issues when Verbinski wallows for too long awaiting a cheap shock. The sequence on a boat when a horse gets loose from its carriage and runs rampage feels like a tacked-on action sequence as if the audience needed a jolt during a supposed lull in the mystery.
But ultimately The Ring is an enjoyable horror film that manages to get under your skin. Every now and again it nips the back of your neck just to let you know that not everything is alright and anything could happen right up until the terrifying climax.
Review by Daniel Stephens – See all reviews
This review is part of 31 Days of Horror: