The Ring (2002)
Review by Jon Waterman
Alright, I have to write this quick, because apparently I only have seven days to live. “Why?” you may ask. Well, because I’ve seen “The Ring.” Legend has it that after watching the tape, you become cursed – doomed if you will. In exactly seven days, you will die. Following the odd, untimely death of her niece, newspaper reporter Rachel Keller decides to put the rumor to the test. This of course includes watching the evil movie. Now she has just one week to fit all the pieces of the puzzle together and hopefully stop whatever it is that happens from happening.
Director Gore Verbinski takes his shot at remaking the Japanese film, “Ringu.” Along with his cinematographer Bojan Bazelli, he creates a genuinely spooky world that is terrifyingly fun to explore. The locations have the deep shadows necessary for such a suspenseful feel, yet they still manage to be quite vibrant and lively and at the same time, otherworldly. The tape in question is given its own personality. Aside from looking like an utterly pretentious student film, the harsh contrast and grain lend it its eerie tone.
Writer Ehren Kruger (“Scream 3” and “Arlington Road”) does a wonderful job of taking the original work and fleshing it out into something more interesting and more cohesive. Instead of being largely psychic or intuition based, the characters actually need to use the tape to find clues. There is a legitimate mystery behind this guise of a horror film. Everything comes together full circle in the end, too (pardon the pun). The symbolism had the potential to be weak and corny, but actually it’s handled very well and the visual links work beautifully as well.
The acting is a little off and forced yet still far above other horror films. The biggest offender is David Dorfman, who plays Rachel’s son. You can’t expect Haley Joel Osment “The Sixth Sense” quality out of every kid, but he was a little stiff, and could have been slightly more off-putting (in a good way). It didn’t seem like any of the actors really gave it their all (not even Naomi Watts in the lead). However, at no point did the lines seem forced or overdone – and that’s rare in this type of film.
Strangely enough, this American remake is much better than the slightly annoying, humdrum Japanese original. I hesitate to use the word “scary,” but it’s definitely effective and severely creepy. It lacks the cheap thrills and jumps, which makes it a more satisfying overall experience. This film is the best argument against being a couch potato and watching movies. With that said, grab some popcorn and your blankie and see “The Ring.”
Review by Jon Waterman
There’s a rumor circulating that says if you watch a certain video, you’ll die seven days later. As soon as the tape is over, a phone will ring and announce this fate to you. Normally, such things would be written off as a childish prank. But when Reiko’s niece is said to have been killed this way, she puts her investigative journalism skills to the test. Her first stop is to examine the tape for clues. Now she just might have seven days to solve the mystery and stop this threat once and for all.
The story (screenplay by Hiroshi Takahashi based on Kôji Suzuki’s novel) is rather ingenious. It’s an interesting take on the horror genre in that it’s also a murder mystery with a very prominent supernatural tone. In fact, the puzzle solving aspect of the picture probably takes precedent over any bone chilling. That doesn’t mean that the film won’t induce fear. Stress levels will be elevated, but not all the time. After the structure becomes more evident and the whole story settles down, you will too. It relies on a couple common scare tactics, but those don’t take hold.
The acting doesn’t really stick, either. Instead of rooting for Reiko (played by Nanako Matsushima), I was rooting for the tape. She’s just too screechy and annoying. There’s a lot of screaming and yelling, and not all of it seemed motivated. Both her and the man who plays her ex-husband (Hiroyuki Sanada) add that authentic B-movie quality to their delivery. The performances aren’t stiff, but they are hardly dynamic or powerful. It’s not quite overacting (however close). It’s just blah.
The same can be said for Hideo Nakata’s directing and Junichirô Hayashi’s cinematography. The visual side seemed a little uninspired. The videotape looked nice, but is surprisingly short. The black and white, grainy home movie look added greatly to the creepy feel. Otherwise, the scenes are dark and clichéd – take dank, pale green environments and flood them with deep shadows. There’s just not enough there to really make it pop.
But for as much as I’m bashing the film, it’s not all that horrible. It may not be the most inventive horror film, but by today’s standards, it lends an air of freshness in a suffocating genre. The story is interesting to watch and for once the path a horror movie takes isn’t entirely predictable. It could have been scarier, but ultimately, the film is fun and sometimes even fascinating. Just make sure you have caller ID before you watch and don’t answer the phone if you don’t recognize the number.