Monday, 24 June 2013

The Ring (2002) - Horror Film Review

The Ring is a remake of a Japanese film Ring (1998) that itself was based on a novel. The Ring actually paved the way for a load of American made remakes including among others The Eye, The Grudge, and One Missed Call. I have seen the original Ring, I even own it, but think this version is a lot superior.

After her niece dies in mysterious circumstances journalist Rachel decides to investigate. She comes across an urban legend about a cursed videotape that her niece apparently saw. Whoever watches the tape receives a phone call informing them they will die in seven days time. In her search she actually locates the videotape...and watches it. Finding out the curse is all too real she has just seven days to find a way to stop it from not only killing her, but her ex Noah, and their son Aiden who also saw it.

A real slow burner this one, until I re-watched it this had totally slipped my mind. If you have a short or belligerent attention span then the slow, stretched out path the film takes may leave you cold. There is only a few sections of pure terror, for the most part it is Noah and Rachel doing research and slowly uncovering the mystery behind the creation of the tape. The tone of The Ring is bleak and this is reflected by the direction and lighting. Cities are cold, emotionless blocks of stone, the countryside is harsh, windswept and rain persists throughout. Rachel is a workaholic who seriously neglects her son often leaving him with a babysitter and doesn't take him to school or even make his school lunches. He is more of a parent to her, one scene on the day of a funeral she wakes up late to discover her son already dressed in his suit, her clothes ironed and laid out for her by him perfectly demonstrates this. I guess her mistreatment of her son runs parallel with the mistreatment of Samara who is the Japanese style ghostly girl who starts the curse.

What I remember of seeing this at the cinema was the jump scares generated by going from quiet scenes to loud ones which still have the power to get a jump when watched on TV. I am not a huge fan of the jump scare but having a film designed to elicit them via location changes is quite unique and better than things popping out at you and screaming as is usually the case. The Ring is a proponent of leaving the scares to the imagination in part, it is only later in the film you see the results of the curse and even then only for a split second. The cursed film is shown a few times throughout and subliminal images are inserted also throughout which is cool. This actually makes watching it on VHS more creepy than DVD. I love that the film ends with a clip of the tape, creates tingles as the screen cuts to static and then the credits.

So The Ring is more of a thriller really, each section introduced by a title card saying how many days are left before Rachel is due to die which does an awesome job of instilling slight panic and tension into the proceedings. While this is a slick and well made film it has had a lot of imitators which can steal from the reaction of this if seen before this one. As mentioned One Missed Call is pretty much a poor mans remake of this, as is Boogeyman, and the fantastically creepy videogame Project Zero (Fatal Frame in America) recreates a key scene.

The acting is of a high standard though I really am creeped out by child actor David Dorfman who plays Aiden in everything he did at that age. I got just as spooked by his dead eyed stare as I did when he appeared in a few episodes of Ally McBeal, something not right with children acting as if they are mature adults. Also I appreciate the black humour injected every now and again as well, actually some quite funny characters and lines to be found.

Overall if you have the patience then The Ring is a great slow burner thriller that creates a murky world of terror and achieves this in a clever way and does enough to distinguish itself from the original that even if you have seen that there is enjoyment to be found here.



Doug Roos said...

I also prefer this over Ringu. For one, they got rid of the ridiculous psychic stuff but also the directing, the performances (I especially like Martin Henderson as Noah and of course Naomi), the cinematography (the purple horses, the red leaves), etc. are all just perfect. I love this movie, and it's such a shame Verbinski didn't come back for the sequel. I was always curious about the deleted scenes since they filmed a bookend about a murderer who Rachel gives the cursed tape to. I'm glad they cut that, but I think it'd be interesting to see. I never thought of it as a slow burn either, but yeah, I guess you're right. I think it has a lot better pacing than Ringu though.

Ringu 0 is also a good film. I thought it'd suck, but it was actually really, really good.

Daniel Simmonds said...

I read about the murderer thing, I agree it would have been interesting to see. I adore the way the parts of the tape keep cropping up throughout the film, expertly done.
Only seen Ringu the once and that was a few years before The Ring came out, Ringu 2 I remember as even more off the deep end, final sequence having something to do with electrodes in a swimming pool to dispel the evil or something bizarre like that?
I liked the idea of Ringu 0; that it had happened in the past via a different medium but again my mind is hazy, I do need to re-watch the original trilogy
Also I realised after seeing this that I have utterly no memory of The Ring 2 despite owning it on DVD, I couldn't even take a stab at any specific thing that happens in it. Going to have to watch it again. Maybe it was so bad that I just blocked it out my mind.