The Ring
4 out of 5 stars
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Based on the 1998 Japanese horror classic Ringu, several liberties were taken in resetting the tale in Seattle and expanding it into a very American-style thriller. But it's also one of the best American-style thrillers we've seen in a long time. After the standard creep-out opening scene involving two nubile teen girls (Tamblyn and Bella), we settle into the story of Rachel (Watts), a journalist with a rather brooding son (Dorfman) who has a kind of sixth sense. Rachel picks up on this, as well as some uncanny coincidences, and starts to investigate an urban myth about a videotape that will kill you seven days after you watch it. Of course, she finds and watches the tape, which gives the story a countdown! To solve the mystery she contacts her techie friend (Henderson), then follows a trail to a creepy remote farmhouse and its twitchy inhabitant (Cox).

As the story expands and deepens, the film really drags us in. We feel like we're being swallowed by the mystery, and this makes it utterly gripping and quite deeply frightening, even though there are very few horrific things actually on screen. Verbinski paints the film with grey colours, but directs it with a visceral urgency. In addition to witty nods to various Hitchcock classics, the film seems haunted by the vibe of David Lynch, not only with the Twin Peaks setting, but also the grainy, seemingly random images on the fateful tape. And of course the presence of Watts (Mulholland Drive), who delivers another remarkably strong performance. There are a few story problems if you think about it: Doesn't Rachel have to work? Why do their mobile phones only appear at the very end, when they're out of range? But Kruger's script keeps filling in back-story brilliantly, giving us more and more information both about the central characters and the freaky people on the tape. It's edgy and insinuating and thoroughly unsettling. And if a second ending is now required for this genre, at least this one packs a real wallop, leaving us chilled to the bone.

cert 15 strong themes, language, drugs 6.Dec.02

dir Gore Verbinski
scr Ehren Kruger
with Naomi Watts, Martin Henderson, Brian Cox, David Dorfman, Jane Alexander, Lindsay Frost, Shannon Cochran, Daveigh Chase, Rachael Bella, Amber Tamblyn, Pauley Perrette, Michael Spound
release US 18.Oct.02; UK 21.Feb.03
DreamWorks
02/US 1h55

Freak-out. Rachel and Noah are both given the willies by this sinister videotape (Watts and Henderson)...

watts cox

See also:
THE RING TWO (2005)
RINGU (1998) | SPIRAL (1998)

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Gem, Worcs, England: "This is a sinister, dark and disturbing film where a video tape reveals a demonic girl, dying horses and death in 7 days of veiwing. The killer video tape is a dreamlike state of fields, mirrors, trees, bleeding fingers, ladders and other images bungled together into a nauseating and strangely odd, haunting mixture. Director Verbinski has intelligently used tone and atmosphere to spook his audience with scary images. Very, very odd footage has been created to tingle down your spine and breach you with suspense. The Ring is a very intelligent and clever film and I recommend anyone to see it." (11.Mar.03)

before you die you see the ring Leanne, England: "What I originally thought to be a rip-off of the Japanese film turned out to be pant-wettingly scary. Definitly well worth watching. It's both disturbing and scary, with quite a few twists in the tale. Though I wouldn't recomend watching it on your own." (4.Apr.03)

Lauren Carter, NSW Australia: "Damn scary! The fear and the images stay with you for weeks to come. Very intelligent script and haunting atmosphere make this the best thriller/horror I've seen. I recommend it to anyone that likes having the pants scared off them." (2.Aug.03)

before you die you see the ringMatthew Bingham, Cambridge, UK: 2.5/5 "As a film on its own, this stands a coherant attempt at making a new and original thiller/horror style movie. However when taken alongside the now infamous Ringu and its series, this typical American style remake loses all of the impact of the more slick and edgy Japanese original. The video tape in this version plays a more central role to the film, and its exploration of the dark side of our humanity. Whereas the Japanese film stands apart from the tape for the most part, and heads for a more rigourously human story, and this pays dividends when the end finally crashes down. As it allows us to more readily identify with the characters plight. Although this typically American style, slick and engaging horror/thriller is well made, acted and cast. It will never stand up to the ideal set by the Japanese original." (20.Jul.04)

2002 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall

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