Reviewed by: Douglas M. Downs
Starring: Naomi Watts, Martin Henderson, Chris Cooper, Brian Cox, Shannon Cochran | Directed by: Gore Verbinski | Produced by: Walter F. Parkes, Laurie MacDonald, J.C. Spink | Written by: Ehren Kruger, Scott Frank | Distributor: Dreamworks
We all smile sometimes at the list of gullible stories that we know as Urban Legends. How many do you get in your email inbox each day? The most popular were the items or reptiles that were flushed down the toilet and later transformed in the sewers. Teens love discussing haunted houses and mysterious cars that stalk unsuspecting victims. “The Ring” introduces us to another Urban Legend. This time the fictitious tale is about a videotape.
Yup, that’s right… if you watch this video—you receive a phone call, then 7 days later you die. There are some in society that feel that entertainment is contributing to the moral death of our culture. This film takes simple everyday objects like a videotape, a ringing telephone, a fly, a ladder and a TV set and turns them into a cinematic delivery system for fear.
“The Ring” is an extremely intelligent thriller. Now I admit that I do like scary films, but I refuse to participate in most of the trash that tries to shock you with a style of horror that is disgusting (can we say “FEARDOTCOM”?!). Instead of resorting to such tactics, this movie uses moments, lighting, suspense, music, and tone to toy with your imagination and mood.
Based on the popular 1998 Japanese horror film “Ringu”, Director Gore Verbinski (“Mouse Hunt”) brings us an intriguing yarn. This is one of those visual experiences that, like “Sixth Sense” or a classic Hitchcock film, can navigate its way under your skin. I like the premise of the story unfolding as a well-constructed mystery. You are spoonfed just the right amount of tempting plot morsels as you are drawn deeper into the story (while not being forced into an unrelenting onslaught of violence, sex and profanity). Yes, there is a strong theme of fatality based on unfortunate circumstances. There are also some traditional forms of judgment common in most films of this genre. This primarily relates to the order by which the victims die or why they are chosen. (You know, the teen that has pre-marital sex is always the first to die.)
Our story begins during a teen girl sleepover. Katie (Amber Tamblyn) and Becca (Rachael Bella) are engaged in typical girl-talk. The conversation moves into a rumor about a mysterious video that sets into motion a chain of events. The moment you finish watching it, you are informed that you will die in seven days. “Oh my goodness!” Katie has seen the tape and guess what?… today is the 7th day!
I won’t spoil it for you, but her death leads an aunt, Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts) to become involved. Rachel is an investigative news reporter and her sister (Lindsay Frost) asks if she can look into the death. Rachel’s research leads her to the tape and she views it for herself. It isn’t long before she realizes that she is now under the curse of this tape. We now watch as she lives through the next seven days and desperately tries to make sense of the seemingly unrelated images on the video.
The atmospheric cinematography by Bojan Bazelli is brilliant, and the musical score by Hans Zimmer is superb. The talent in this film really adds to the threatening development of each section. The acting is also quite good. I would easily compare it again to “Sixth Sense”. Martin Henderson, who plays Josh, turns in an excellent performance as he assists Rachel in her quest. Both are convinced that if they can solve the mystery behind the tape, then they will live. ’Nuff said—if I tell you much more, it will spoil those who would like to see the film.
Here’s one fair warning though: the “PG-13” rating should be observed and even then I would not suggest “The Ring” for anyone under 15. The film does have a strong theme of ghosts and their implied power beyond the grave. Just like Lou Costello, “I don’t believe in ghost, I don’t believe in ghost.”
There are some disturbing images that are not for the faint of heart, but nothing that will absolutely gross you out. The special effects are well placed and in the classic tradition of true horror and suspense, the most frightening elements are not what you see, but what you can only imagine. This is a very smart film with no sex and very little language. If you like scary films, and it has been awhile since you saw a good one, I do recommend “The Ring”.