The Ring (2002) / Horror-Mystery
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for thematic elements, disturbing images, language, and some drug references
Running Time: 115 min.
Cast: Naomi Watts, Martin Henderson, David Dorfman, Brian Cox, Jane Alexander
Director: Gore Verbinski
Screenplay: Ehren Kruger
Review published October 19, 2002
Although it would seem like another ridiculous idea for a horror flick, The Ring actually does make for some passable mindless entertainment. Although this is based on a Japanese film from 1998 entitled Ringu, which itself was based on a novel and also TV film from 1995, the reason why The Ring maintains interest is mostly due to the effective direction by Gore Verbinski and the eerie cinematography by Bojan Bazelli. That's because much of the "scare factor" comes from the visual imagery and atmospheric sound effects for the kind of hair-raising experience of playing an interactive adventure game, a la "Myst" only a little darker in theme. But why not, since The Ring is merely just a puzzle movie in itself, with a main protagonist following a series of clues to see what's behind all of the hullabaloo. Normally, films like this keep your interest mostly because we are curious and intrigued by that which we don't know, only to eventually fall apart once the totality of it is revealed. The Ring does have good plotting in this regard, even if the plot itself hasn't much to it, and is one of the rare films that doesn't fall completely apart with a bad ending.
This plot revolves around a videotape that supposedly has the curse of killing off any who view it seven days later, and they know this due to a phone call they receive after watching it informing them of that fact. After the playmate of one of her son's dies and he exhibits some strange behavior as a result, a young report named Rachel views the tape others have said responsible only to receive the very same phone call. She gives the tape to her former boyfriend and video production expert, Noah, to find out the origin of the tape only to discover even more mysterious anomalies that make her begin to believe the rumor. Bad news: her curious son decides to watch it as well. Now with mere days left to live, she must uncover what's behind the deaths and see if there's anyway to stop more, including her own.
The Ring is an amalgamation of many films that you might actually think you've seen if before even though you can't place why. Those who have seen Ringu will obviously know why, but the film feels very much like a mixture of Feardotcom, Minority Report, D.O.A., and Stir of Echoes, with visions from Salvador Dali as directed by Luis Bunuel in Un Chien Andalou. That is to say, The Ring has very little to offer we haven't seen 100 times before, and feels more like a compilation of images, music and story elements that most people find unsettling or eerie, slapped together around a flimsy storyline. I'll give the film some credit for keeping it together and giving it a semblance of cohesion, but there really isn't much more to the film than unpleasant images.
While I didn't think The Ring was a very scary film, it will probably be unsettling for those who are squeamish about such things as ghosts, insects or bumps in the night. It's made for those who scream when seeing cockroaches and spiders or jump up onto furniture when there's a mouse in the house. The RIng is only PG-13, and not high on gore and violence, but the hint that there could be more unpleasant images always looms in the back of your mind and you're more scared of what COULD happen than what actually does. The makers of The RIng are the type of people that tell you that there's a large, ugly spider somewhere in the bedroom before you are about to go to sleep, and you stay awake all night jumping at every tingle or itch that you think you feel. Dumb...but effective.
-- Followed by a sequel, The Ring Two.
-- There is a also a short film which serves as bridge between the two movies, Rings, a 16-minute short released as a bonus disc to the DVD of The Ring in 2005.
©2002 Vince Leo