Thursday, October 21, 2010

2010 Geek Fright Fest: The Ring

The Ring (2002)
Rated PG-13 (for language and disturbing images)

Directed by Gore Verbinski

Naomi Watts
Daveigh Chase
Martin Henderson
Brian Cox

The Ring is an American remake of the Japanese film, Ring. Both films are based on the novel Ring, written by Koji Suzuki, which in turn takes elements from the Japanese folktale "Bancho Sarayashiki".

Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts), a journalist, is investigating the mysterious death of her neice, Katie. After spending a weekend with her boyfriend and his friends in a remote cabin, Katie dies a week later of a heart attack. Her friends claim that a tape rumored to kill the viewer seven days after being watched is to blame. Rachel laughs it off, but soon she discovers that the three people her neice was with all died on the same day, at the same exact time. She goes to the cabin and watches the tape, horrified by what she sees. Moments after the video ends, the phone in the cabin rings and a little girl's voice says, "Seven days." Disturbed, she shows it to Noah (Martin Henderson), her former boyfriend and father of her young son, Aidan. When they both begin experiencing the same symptoms and hallucinations, the two are convinced and start a race against time to find out the origins of the tape and try to stop it before it kills them.

This was the first American remake of Japanese horror (or J-Horror), and it remains the best, due in large part to Verbinski's skilled directing. The cinematography pays tribute to the original, evoking the same suspense and somber mood. Verbinski uses every day items to create that suspense. Even as something as banal as water dripping off of a glass door knob can induce scares. The film's palette is made up of blues, grays, and a sickly green, enhancing the mood. The one item saturated with color is the red Japanese maple that reappears throughout the movie, and the stark difference in color signals its importance to the story. Rain (and water in general) figure heavily both in the plot and furthering the dark mood.

In the tradition of Japanese horror, there is very little actual gore in this film. The focus is on psychological terror and the scariest scenes stem from supernatural scares. The famous "cursed tape" is the most recognizable of these. The tape is a series of disturbing images strung together, like a bad student film. Initially, it's just weird, but as elements from the video start appearing in real life, the tape becomes more ominous. Arguably, the most frightening scene in the film is the one in which Samara (Daveigh Chase) breaks the fourth wall. This flick is all about blurring the line between fiction and reality, and no scene shows that more than this one:

Although the film work overshadows the cast, there are some good performances. David Dorfman, who plays Aidan, is the consummate creepy kid. He's got pallid skin, with some major dark circles around the eyes, and seems eerily wise beyond his years. Dorfman does an excellent job portraying a kid who's more parent than child. Watts is also good in this respect. She makes it easy to believe that her character was a young mom who wasn't (and probably still isn't) completely prepared for motherhood. The few scenes Chase appears in are chilling; she seems like the epitome of pure evil embodied in a child.

Fright Rating: 3 gasps out of a possible 5

This flick's scares come mostly from suspense and classic "gotcha" moments, but it is a movie that stays with you after it's over.* It's a good ghost story and fun to watch on Halloween, so I definitely recommend it for adults and kids over 13.

*Case in point: Kris and I saw it in the theaters and were so rattled we decided to watch The Princess Bride to distract ourselves. We both fell asleep before the movie ended, and since the movie was VHS and we didn't press "Stop", it played to the very end of the tape and we woke up in the middle of the night to static. I don't think I've ever been that scared in my life.

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