Before I start, a friend admonished me about spoilers in this year's Shocktober series. None of the movies I'm talking about are new, and if you haven't seen them by now, you're not a true horror fan, anyway. Still, in the interest of being fair, please note that every post this month will contain spoilers, so if you haven't seen a film I'm discussing, don't read the post until you have. Anyway...
I resisted seeing The Ring when it was released to theaters in 2002. It had (or so I thought) too many things going against it: First, director Gore Verbinski's only previous feature film was the 1997 family comedy Mousehunt (a fine movie for 10 year olds and their 60+ grannies, but not exactly what most horror fans get excited about). What the heck did he know about making a horror movie? Second, it was a remake of a Japanese horror movie. Thoughts of men in silly rubber monster suits stomping about Tokyo were somehow unavoidable. Third, the premise just seemed ridiculous: watch a videotape and die 7 days later. Really? I am happy to report that when I finally saw The Ring, I was pleasantly surprised to find that all of my preconceptions were wrong.
When her young cousin Katie dies mysteriously, journalist Rachel (Naomi Watts) investigates the circumstances surrounding Katie's death and the mysterious video tape she watched seven days earlier. The tape is a pastiche of disturbing images which, upon further review, seem to be more than just magnetic images (Rachel is actually able to pull a fly out of her TV when the tape is paused on its image). Her investigation eventually leads her to a lighthouse on Moesko Island, off the coast of Washington state. There she finds a former horse rancher (the original Hannibal Lecter, Brian Cox) whose wife murdered their adopted daughter Samara, by throwing her down a well and it seems that the titular "ring" is the light that Samara saw at the top of the well just before shew died. Apparently, Samara wants revenge and gets it by visiting and killing anyone who watches the supernaturally created video tape. And the only way to avoid dying is to make a copy of the tape and show it to someone else, which is what Rachel does to keep her own son Aiden from dying after he watches the copy she had.
Based on the novel and film Ringu, Verbinski (Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl and the upcoming The Lone Ranger) manages to translate the Japanese original into a an accessible and often creepy film for American audiences, thanks in great part to his terrific leading lady. Watts, (who will next be seen in The Impossible; Movie 43 and as Princess Diana in Diana) is terrific as a realist who begins to doubt reality as the world she thinks she knows begins to make less and less sense. Verbinski's visuals are both intriguing and disturbing and the film's rather ambiguous ending leaves you wanting to know more. The sequel The Ring Two (from Ringu director Hideo Nakata), is less successful, despite the presence of Watts, Gary Cole, Elizabeth Perkins and Sissy Spacek.