Review: The Ring

by Jake Sproul

Rating: (out of )

The Ring is a adaptation from “Ringu,” which was a trilogy of films that became a national phenomenon in Japan. While The Ring does have such fascinating aspects and some genuine scares, The Ring’s loose plot elements and absurd premise make it your run of the mill grade b- horror movie and doesn’t make the grade in the good ’ol US of A.

The Ring could have succeeded, but this Rachel Keller is a journalist working for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. When her neice and all her friends die on the same day, and at the same time, Rachel starts poking around. That is when she hears the rumor of the “video that kills you.” On this reported video are various images that when strung together, resemble someone’s nightmare. (One of these images by the way is the ‘ring’.) After you watch this video tape, you die 7 days after viewing. Of course, Rachel finds this tape, and watches it. Now she has seven days to uncover the mystery of this tape before she dies.

I just can’t say enough about this plot! A video tape that kills you? Come on folks, have we really run out of ideas that we need to go to Japan and steal their corny ideas? The Ring could have succeed in spite of the obviously ridiculous plot. Unfortunately, the characters do stupid things that are obvious cliches of b-movies. And The Ring introduces weird anomalies, and then never explains them. Inexplicable bloody noses, mysterious flies, horses going psycho...all introduced, none explained. These plot elements are only there for atmosphere, and director Gore Verbinski should have realized his own skill with the imagery and camera did enough to create atmosphere.

What makes a b-horror movie an a-horror movie? Sympathetic characters. And we certainly don’t have any of them in this movie. We are pushed right into the mystery as soon as the movie starts. This limits any chance of character development. Rachel is simply a person we experience this mystery through. She has no particular personality, and if I had to label her as something, it would be a neglectful mother.

As I just mentioned, the imagery and camera work is one of The Ring’s best aspects. The Ring was set is Seattle, a constantly gray and dreary atmosphere. Along with this atmosphere, the special effects found in The Ring are quite effective. Screws undoing themselves...etc. But perhaps the scariest thing found in The Ring is the video itself. The video’s images are thought provoking and very intriguing.

While the plot itself is more ambiguous than scary, there are some frights to be had when viewing The Ring. While they are not really desereved, they are present. These scares are your run of the mill “BOO’S!,” not anything really scary like you might find in the original Halloween.

Director Gore Verbinski needs to be commended though for his choice to limit to gore contained within The Ring. (Ironic considering the director’s first name.) The Ring carries a PG-13 rating, and considering it is a horror movie, and we are living in the censorship crazed society, that is quite a feat. The Ring relies on “disturbing images” rather than blood and guts.

Acting is never high on the priority list for a horror movie. This is why it surprises me that Naomi Watts, who was praised for her performance in the David Lynch film, Mullholland Drive, was cast in such a role. The role of Rachel, as I have touched on, does not give Naomi any real scenery to chew, thus her performance can meerly be classified as adequate. It seems that in a horror, the set of lungs you have is more important than your acting talent.

In case you have shut yourself off from the world in the last week or so, then you have seen the advertising campaign for The Ring. “Before you die, you see the ring.” The advertising campaign has been masterfully executed. The Ring in itself is shrouded in mystery due to the (wise) lack of TV spots and instead having the trailer played extensively. Take a look at the movie poster, you have to admit that it is one of the most interesting posters you have seen in quite some time.

When All Hollow's Eve rolls around every October, movie patrons flock to the box office in look of a good scare. While there are a few to be had in The Ring, there not hardly enough, and you might even find yourself laughing at the absurdity of the plot more than the scares. It looks like you might be better suited heading over to the local rental video retailer and renting yourself Halloween or A Nightmare on Elm Street. Just remember, “before you die, don’t see The Ring.”

© 2002 Jake Sproul

This review is dedicated to Kristy "HHH" Shook, who bares a huge resemblance to the freaky girl/monster in this movie.

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