The Ring
review by Paula Nechak, 18 October 2002

You watch a videotape. It's rife with stark, plaguing images. After you finish, shaking off the haunting visages you've just viewed the phone rings. "You'll die in seven days," a girl's voice says. Joke, or the stuff that urban legends are made of?  It's the premise for Gore Verbinski's darkly compulsive The Ring,  a remake of Hideo Nakata's 1998 horror sensation, Ringu, and which has enough sense of place, visual idiosyncrasy and individuality to distinguish it from its predecessor. Though it hasn't the wit to thrust it into the pantheon of the Scream franchise, nor likely to create the commotion of The Blair Witch Project, The Ring is still intriguingly eerie, what with its sterile, rainy settings to the slightly tinny, metallic tinge that casts everything about it into a futuristic, post-apocalyptic dread.

Set in Seattle, The Ring is not quite, in fact, what you expect it to be - or become.  Think back on another set-in-Seattle classic thriller, Peter Medak's 1979 The Changeling, and you'll get some idea of what the film relationally likes akin to. It's a revenge from beyond the grave thriller that is compulsively interesting, even as its script, under scrutiny, doesn't always hold up.

Australian actress Naomi Watts, who made her big score in last year's Mulholland Drive, here plays Rachel Keller, a hard-nosed Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporter with a young son named Aidan (David Dorfman) and an ex named Noah (New Zealander Martin Henderson) who is Aidan's father and with whom she is still on good terms. But The Ring opens prior to our introduction to this more-or-less distended family; Rachel's niece has glimpsed a video while on an outing with friends - after viewing the phone rings. Seven days, a voice says, "you''ll be dead in seven days." And at ten p.m. one week later, niece and best friend are chatting at a sleep-over. The niece tells her pal what happened during that party in a remote resort cabin. Within the hour she is indeed dead and her best friend has gone mad at what she's seen transpire. Rachel enters the picture, keen to discover what happened. She retraces her niece's tracks and watches the videotape - haunted by the disturbing, stark images that drill deep into her brain. And then the phone rings...

The premise certainly is a creepy one and lives up to the tag line "before you die you see the ring." Verbinski wisely allows us access to the videotape and sears our brains as well as his character's with truly disruptive, curious and distressing pictures. Each is a clue to the final mystery of the ring and, just when we believe we have solved its riddle, the real horror begins. Verbinski also knows enough to tease with ambiguity, as he does in the final frames - perhaps as a setup for a sequel - but which is just enough of a scare to make that post-movie walk to the car slightly unnerving. A long set-up turns into something terrible and horrific as the final reel rolls and if Watts struts less charisma than she did in that other mind-mystery "Mulholland Drive," she's still fearless, unafraid to be abrasive, anathema to glamour and - for all the questionable ethics at play - a gutsy broad and heroine.

But the people are secondary to the actualization of the thesis of "The Ring."  The images we see are unshakeable and preternatural and their grim black and white grain and silent suffering lingers long after the mystery is unraveled. This is a film that owes everything to its production design and cinematography and applauds the use of cinema as a sheer visual platform rather than the as a more customary and familiar narrative storytelling medium.

Directed by:
Rick Famuyiwa

Starring:
Taye Diggs
Sanaa Lathan
Mos Def
Queen Latifah
Nicole Ari Parker
Boris Kodjoe

Written by:
Michael Elliot
Rick Famuyiwa

Rating:
PG-13 - Parents
Strongly Cautioned.
Some material may be
inappropriate for
children under 13.

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