Journalist Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts) gets drawn into the urban myth of a video with deadly powers: after watching it the viewer receives a phone call [but that’s not the ring reference in the title] with the forecast of the viewer’s death within seven days. She isn’t easily taken in, but her skepticism vanishes after she views the tape herself. She enlists the help of her ex, Noah (Martin Henderson), and when her young son (David Dorfman) views the tape, she knows she must discover the secret of the tape or not only lose her own life but her son’s as well. Her enquiries lead her to believe that the phenomenon is somehow linked to a horse farm on a mysterious island, where she discovers a well ….
Review by Louise Keller:
The key to a good horror story is in the set up, and The Ring sets us up for quite a trip. The opening sequences spark our curiosity, but very soon a chill sets in, with the hairs on the back of our neck standing erect. A remake of a 1998 Japanese horror thriller penned by ‘the Stephen King of Japan’, The Ring sets out to make our skin crawl, while secure in our position as armchair travellers. The interesting thing is that even though there may be someone sitting next to us, when it comes to psychologically unsettling subjects, we are totally alone. Gore Verbinski’s direction makes this a visceral experience, and Hans Zimmer’s splendid score etches unease and discomfort in every enigmatic phrase. There are red herrings, false alarms and moments of horror that will make your palms sweaty. It’s a countdown to terror with a subliminal undercurrent of angst and uncertainty. We are looking over Rachel’s shoulder as she retraces the footsteps of the doomed teenager, holding our breath all the while. The aerial shots, the winding road, the secluded cabin, the fast-moving cloud patterns, distorted faces, creaking doors, the thick mist, a fly slowly crawling over a television screen, the patient in the psychiatric hospital putting together the pieces of a jigsaw – all the elements gnaw away at our subconscious. As each piece of information intertwines with the next, the effect is compounded. The item at the centre of the controversy – an unmarked video tape – is frighteningly common: we can all relate to it. What home doesn’t have a few tapes lying around? Beware the next time your television flashes static on the screen – it will take you back to some of the film’s edgy moments. It’s a ripper of a yarn and I for one enjoyed the thrill of the chill. Naomi Watts is terrific as Rachel; her petite frame and vulnerable persona emphasising her plight and isolation. She displays a no-nonsense character with an Achilles heel – her son, and I like the way her relationship with Noah is revealed. The two children are beautifully cast – both exuding a subversive and elusive quality that combines mystery with potential evil. The story does sink into a mire that borders on the ridiculous, but by then we are hooked enough to forgive a few instances of over-cooking. See it with a good friend, or if you’re game, watch it alone. But remember, by watching the film, you too will have seen the video. Seven days.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Constantly inventive in its search for the bizarre, jolting and sometimes hideous as a way of providing the scares and shocks a horror movie audiences are craving for, The Ring is a mixed bag of excellent cinematic crafts and missed opportunities. The music and cinematography are superb, but the script and characterisations remain as inaccessible as the ghost story that drives the film. If you are a fan of the Japanese original, you may want to see this out of curiosity; if you’re a young man looking for a scary date movie, make sure you are both going to see it for the same reason. Being neither, I find the movie a little disappointing and insufficiently visceral to be truly scary. It plays like an above average teen horror film, albeit with a more complex set of images. I feel as if the book’s complexities are crammed helter skelter into the film but lose their context and are little more than dramatic but meaningless elements. While meaning alone is not the only possible objective for filmmaking, the audience cannot be left adrift on too many rafts in the open ocean of the filmmakers’ imagination without getting lost at sea. It also opens the film to ridicule – and many in the preview laughed when they should have been gasping. Sometimes these are moments culled from clever red herrings - those strange, inexplicable, manifestations of possible evil spirits – and sometimes from straight out melodrama. Which leads me to speculate that the original novel and films are both culture-specific, compelling to the Japanese psyche in a way this adapted, Westernised take on the material is not. I do enjoy the surreal and inexplicable images that are conjured up, and I don’t mind the fact that little of the story makes much sense, although when reduced to its simplest form, it seems to.
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NAOMI WATTS interview by Andrew L. Urban.
RING, THE (MA)
CAST: Naomi Watts, Martin Henderson, David Dorfman, Brian Cox, Jane Alexander, Lindsay Frost, Amber Tamblyn
PRODUCER: Laurie MacDonald, Walter F. Parkes
DIRECTOR: Gore Verbinski
SCRIPT: Ehren Kruger (based on Kôji Suzuki’s novel and Hiroshi Takahashi’s screenplay, Ringu)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Bojan Bazelli
EDITOR: Craig Wood
MUSIC: Hans Zimmer
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Tom Duffield
RUNNING TIME: 110 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: UIP
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 14, 2002
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Universal
VIDEO RELEASE: May 7, 2003