Director: Gore Verbinski
Cast: Naomi Watts, Martin Henderson, David Dorfman, Brian Cox, Jane Alexander
MPAA Rating: (for thematic elements, disturbing images, language and some drug references)
Running Time: 1:49
Release Date: 10/18/02
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Review by Mark Dujsik
Yet another fine example of style overcoming a relative lack of substance, The Ring is a horror film that goes the route of atmosphere and suspense while avoiding reliance on blood and gore to provide scares. There are certainly some gruesome and unsettling images in the film (as gruesome and unsettling as is possible to still receive a PG-13 rating), but, for the most part, they serve a purpose for the story. It doesn’t all work, unfortunately. Many of the frightening images and elements are merely cryptic and have a passing connection with the story as a whole but nothing that really adds to the material. There are also a few plotholes here and there along the way, although, admittedly, most of them are cleared up in the off-catching finale. The ones that stick are the ones in which information is kept from the audience for no reason except to keep them off guard. These are rather minor problems considering how well the film builds its atmosphere and redefines our expectations with a highly effective bait-and-switch ending.
Opening with the most chilling sequence, the film starts off with two girls Katie (Amber Tamblyn) and Becca (Rachael Bella) sitting around talking girl-talk. The conversation slowly turns to a spooky urban legend about a tape, and if you watch it, right afterwards the phone rings and a voice on the other end tells you that you only have seven days to live. After the seven days are up, you die. The story hits a little too close to home for Katie who saw the tape and received the phone call exactly seven days ago. The girl dies mysteriously—her heart suddenly stopped and her body was left hideously disfigured—and her mother wants some answers. Katie’s aunt Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts) is a journalist, and Katie’s mother believes Rachel can figure out what happened. Rachel’s son Aidan (David Dorfman) was best friends with Katie, so there’s a sense of responsibility to the request. After some investigating, Rachel discovers the tape, watches it, gets the “seven days” phone call, and is immediately freaked out and believes everything. To help decipher the tape’s contents, Rachel calls in the help of Noah (Martin Henderson), a video expert with a past relationship with Rachel, and although he’s much more skeptical, he joins her in her investigation.
This is a remake of a 1998
Japanese horror film of essentially the same name (Ringu,
or “Ring”); the movie was so popular in
As much as they work on their own, the images are troubling in terms of plotting. Each of them is somehow explained by the mystery, which at some points adds to their general creepiness but at others merely bog them down in relative obscurity to the story. And there are a few more problems present. Some of the impact of the film is slightly dampened by a poor acting choice on the part of Naomi Watts, who is too easily shaken by the tape. The problem with the decision is that it admits too quickly that there actually is a reason to be scared of the tape before the audience can discover it on their own, but this isn’t really a movie about its acting or characters anyway. Rachel’s investigation is also a little shaky. She has all the information she needs to figure out much of the mystery after a trip to an archive, but the script manages to keep a lot of details hidden from us and her until they’re necessary to move the story along. This leads to a few plot points that could be taken as holes until the entire mystery is cleared up in a finale that takes a recent cliché about supernatural forces and tosses it aside to return to a more traditional cliché, which isn’t a criticism of the material; I actually liked this move.Despite my reservations, The Ring works. I know it could have worked better with either a little less plotting or a better grasp on the story. I’m recommending it, if only for the fact that it does what so very few horror films do: it sticks with you and manages to give you the chills well after the lights in the theater have gone up.
Copyright © 2002 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.