Sonic Cinema

Sounds, Visions and Insights by Brian Skutle

The Ring

Grade : A+ Year : 2002 Director : Gore Verbinski Running Time : 1hr 55min Genre : ,
Movie review score

Originally Written: October 2002

What follows are the top seven reasons- you’ll know why seven in a minute- “The Ring” is one of my favorite films of the year, one of the best films of the year, and the scariest film of the past 10 years. A word of caution, though- if you’re one with a weak heart for shocks, or are easily scared, stay away. Far away.

That said, let’s begin.

“The Ring”: The Plot
Based on a Japanese novel by Suzuki Koji- and the record-breaking 1998 cult hit film it inspired- “The Ring” tells of a tape that- after seen- is rumored to lead to the viewer’s death seven days later. When her niece is one of it’s victims, reporter Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts) decides to investigate it.

Seven Reasons to See “The Ring”
1. Start with Naomi Watts. She’s the blonde actress that turned a few heads with her beauty and talent in David Lynch’s “Mulholland Drive” last year. What a follow-up. She’s required to anchor the film with feeling and intelligence when the story threatens to go off the rails into the same-old-same-old predictable horror trite. Done. It’s a deftly controlled and overly terrific performance from a rising star.

2. Hans Zimmer’s score- though reminiscent of his sensational work for “Hannibal” last year- captures the mood of dread and uneasiness running throughout the film with a sinuous skill displayed only by the masters. It’s a nerve-racker.

3. I saw “The Blair Witch Project” in a sold-out crowd the Monday after it opened and was freakin’ creeped out. I saw “Signs” the first couple of days it was out and jumped a couple of times. Despite that, I’m not one to be scared easily. “The Ring” beat both of them. This isn’t your usual go-for-the-gore-athon like you see with “13 Ghosts” or “feardotcom,” a terrible- and terribly dark- effort with a similar premise, and it doesn’t thud under the weight of it’s big special effects like Jan De Bont’s disappointing “The Haunting” (its’ effects are sparse but effective). Director Gore Verbinski (“The Mexican” and- of all things- “Mouse Hunt”)- working from a script by “Scream 3” writer Ehren Kruger- maintains a fever pitch of suspense and impending doom that ranks with the great efforts of the genre (Wes Craven in “Scream,” Stanley Kubrick in “The Shining,” William Friedkin in “The Exorcist”). It’s all about the growing tension in Rachel’s investigation of the tape, as she puts her ex-boyfriend (Martin Hernandez) and young son (David Dorfman) into close proximity of the tape, and boy does this one grab you. That said, the PG-13 rating is a bit misleading (correction, a lot misleading)…and not kid-friendly. It’s an R-rated shocker masquerading as a PG-13-rated thriller. The intensity is on par with “The Silence of the Lambs” and “Seven,” with very little let up. Not to discourage you from seeing “The Ring” (it’s well worth seeing; it’s destined to be a cult classic as the original has become), think of it as fair warning.

4. It teases you into think it’s a B-movie production (despite the $40-60 million price tag) with it’s second tier director, largely unknown cast and crew, cliched- though thoroughly effective- scare tactics, and de-emphasis on special effects and gore, instead allowing the story to grab hold and jolt you. Like “Psycho,” “Halloween,” and the classic ’40s shocker “Cat People,” “The Ring” is a B-movie elevated to the A-level through conviction of the filmmakers and potency of the material.

5. It leaves you surprises at every turn. You may think you know where it’s headed, but like any great horror film, it’ll throw some curveballs in the story to leave you guessin’. No fair telling, though; THAT’S why you watch the movie.

6. Bad horror films- well, most of them are bad- make everything nice and tidy by the end. Great horror films leave you feeling, a bit uneasy, perhaps a bit unsatisfied. If you need an example, look no further than the original 1973 version of “The Exorcist” compared to the 2000 re-issue “The Version You’ve Never Seen.” 1973 version- unsettling ending; 2000 version- upbeat ending. Most people will tell you, 1973 still reins supreme for the horror masterpiece. Few horror films have had endings quite as haunting as “The Ring.” And I thought “The Blair Witch Project” left you feeling unresolved and a bit ambiguous. “The Ring” just chills you to the bone.

7. Like “The Blair Witch Project”- which duped many people into believing it really WAS a documentary, “The Ring” throws you into it’s own mythology by showing you the deadly video in it’s entirety. Just try not to leave the theatre freaked.

Read Brian’s Review of “The Ring Two” Here

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