The Ring was the key horror movie that revived a genre, but was also a personal revival in my interest in the horror genre. It was steadily paced, suspenseful, and had a well crafted story that kept you intrigued all throughout. The ending was unique for the time and still holds one of the best final moment scenes of any horror movie I’ve watched. If asked to choose my all time favorite horror movie The Ring would be a top contender and hard to beat, but there is some competition. With the second sequel Rings coming out soon, if you haven’t seen The Ring watch it. It is a must see movie, and unique for so many reasons. – 4.1/5 (general)
In addition: My quarter century review (#25 that is) will be The Ring Two, the first sequel and my first viewing.
As you may have noticed I tend to stay away from high budget, large horror movies with big name actors and stay in the land of lesser knowns. However, I do sometimes make exceptions such as with my last review of The Lazarus Effect, which sadly was quite sometime ago. But I’m back to reviewing (and watching) horror movies and oddly enough I’m doing probably one of the most well known horror movies in the last decade and a half.
With the impending release of Rings, the first new installment in The Ring series of movies in more than a decade, I felt it would be a good time to return to the original and the first sequel to give them a watch once again. Well actually give the original a watch again, and see the first sequel for the first time, as I never really felt like The Ring required a sequel.
Even though everyone likely knows the ins and outs of The Ring I’ll give a brief overview. Naomi Watts plays Rachael Keller, a reporter who is a single mother of Aidan (David Dorfman). Aidan is obviously a special kid with much deeper insights and more responsible than most children his age, often taking care of not only himself but Rachael as well. I didn’t much understand the need to make him this way other than to add to a few scenes in the movie, as it is never really expanded upon why he’s so much different and how that is important to the movie. I realize that maybe its just like a little window into life and he just happens to be that way and involved in the events that unfold, but still when telling a narrative you often have a reason why your characters are the way they are. Perhaps it hit the cutting room floor for time reasons, as I’ve never read the book or seen the Japanese original version it’s hard for me to say. I can only say that it irritated me a little, like this was a grab from other horror movies with children to make him stand out but with no particular direction in mind.
Rachael is a rather absent minded parent, not that she’s irresponsible but just is heavily work driven and depends on the fact that Aidan can pretty much take care of himself. She seems fine with the setup, since being a reporter takes up a huge amount of her time. Our connection to her is somewhat tenuous I think, as we understand all her motivations, and Naomi Watts is quite compelling in the role, but still she feels almost unimportant to the story even though everything in the story revolves around her actions. This is rather impressive writing, to make the main character, and center of events, feel as if she isn’t even that important. I’d dare say I couldn’t write a character like that, so bravo (in a good way I mean).
And then there is Noah Clay (Martin Henderson), the father of Aidan who isn’t around, because of the bad relationship between Rachael and him, and was never formally introduced to Aidan as his father. Noah does something to do with film editing, movie making, I’m not really sure but he does have quite a bit of really expensive equipment (for the time) so he must be doing rather well. I wonder how many people watching this movie for the first time now have ever even used a VCR, let alone seen a VCR tape. -Martin Henderson plays him well, if a little bit contrived, but that is okay because he also isn’t the focus of the movie. His interactions and actions throughout the movie are somewhat sparse until the last 50 minutes to hour of the movie, where we get a little more insight into who he is, which sadly really only required about 2 minutes of that time.
And there we have it, three of the four primary characters and not one of them is the focus of the movie, but just chess pieces being moved about by the fourth. And yet, this works so well for The Ring that if it wasn’t the 20th time (I exaggerate) watching it I probably wouldn’t even notice. This is yet again a compliment to the writing and directing and even acting. So who is the fourth main character? Well, that’s coming.
Rachael’s niece and Aidan’s cousin and best friend dies in the beginning. This is where the movie starts in almost solidly true to form slasher film style. Two girls are hanging out together alone when one mentions (Becca – Racheal Bella) a tape that if you watch it you’ll get a phone call after and a voice will tell you that you have seven days to live. Katie (Amber Tamblyn), the niece, says she watched that video a week ago. A series of events follow where we get a lot of shots that make you expect to see some kind of killer lurking about, and it’s very effective and true to the format of most horror movies of the time. The fun part is we never do, and her death (the actually death) is left to our imaginations with the exception of a brief shot of her body that lasts less than a second. After her death Rachael’s sister (or sister in law, I was unclear on this) asks her to investigate the death, as it was ruled that her heart had just stopped for no explainable reason.
Rachael digs in right away, questioning friends at the wake of Katie and finding out that there were others that had been with her the week before that were dead as well. Rachael learns where they were, a lodge somewhere relatively nearby, and goes there where she finds the tape. She watches it and then receives the phone call.
I’d like to stop for the moment and talk about the tape. Watching it now, after so many horror movies watched, it has lost some of it’s creepiness. And yet, The Ring does such a good job of making that tape so terrifying that even now having also watched the tape with them I still get a little creeped out by it and the images. Nothing in the tape is particularly grotesque, but it is disturbing in it’s very peculiar assemblage. I know the high pitched whines and screeches drove my cat up the wall, so at the very least I know cats don’t like the tape either. Watching the movie again, and knowing what each of the images in the video mean, takes away some of the mystery and horror of it, but definitely not all. I imagine, especially since The Ring Two is up on the menu next, I will be having some dreams about it and I can’t imagine they’ll be pleasant ones.
That brings us to the fourth main character, Samara (Daveigh Chase). She is, without doubt, the pivot upon which this entire story turns. It is her story, even though we don’t see her much except in snippets throughout the movie, but it is the actions of the other characters which drive Samara’s story forward and make it compelling. She becomes so much more than a monster, more than a killer, she is a human being and yet has depths of evil that exceed those of any horror movie monster, creature or killer. The hair covering her face for some reason makes the evil version of her feel so horrifying even though it’s only hair. And it was things like this that make The Ring work so beautifully, simple and subtle attributes that are easily missed consciously but perceived sub-consciously and made all the more scary. The remainder of the movie becomes about how to stop Rachael, Noah, and Aidan from dying after the seven days are up. Sorry, but even if it is an old movie I can’t give away more than that, otherwise I’d be robbing anyone who hasn’t seen it of a great experience.
I had forgotten how much of a slow burn The Ring was, with small flurries of action thrown in here and there, but mostly following the mystery and investigation into why these things are happening. Rachael’s first six days are all contained in the first 55 minutes of the movie, and the last half of day six and all of day seven occur in the following hour. One would think this rushed to a point and then extreme slow down would flow poorly and make the movie feel like it was dragging suddenly, but the transition is so seamless that it’s barely noticeable. In fact I actually checked the time at day six to see how much of the movie was left (I was curious) and was really surprised to see an hour left. And yet, this is where everything picks up, at least as much as a movie that moves at such an even and steady pace can pick up. I’m not complaining, I loved the even flow and nicely laid out timeline, even allowing for a sense of urgency that last day despite it occupying the most screen time. But for some, it may feel too slow or too much time between scares if they are used to more recent horror movies which have begun to trend away from this slower pace over the last 6ish years or so. But the impact of The Ring’s pacing and format are felt throughout all suspense type horror movies in the 2000’s, like ripples in the water (oh come on, you have to give me that one!).
Speaking of impact, The Ring was the pivotal movie for the horror genre, bringing it back from the stale and bland slasher films that were slowly chocking themselves to death (in western horror). The Ring used suspense and the viewers imagination with well placed creepy imagery to bring a long running sense of dread that just wouldn’t quite let you go throughout the entire movie. In fact, the scene where Samara crawls out of the TV is still one of the most disturbing scenes I’ve watched in a movie and really weirds me out even today.
The Ring also set the tone for how horror movies of this type would end, and is still seen in movies as recent as this year. This type of evil being movie has three possible outcomes (two before The Ring), either you kill the monster and it’s done (probably to come back in a sequel – Jason, Michael Meyers), or you solve the problem plaguing the spirit/creature etc. and give it peace so it stops killing (hmm, lacking previous examples; if you have any mention them in comments for me please). The Ring played on this model and decided to have some fun with it, making the ending at that time both original and horrifying, and well extremely satisfying. I won’t say the ending so not to ruin it, but if you’ve read this far you likely can guess what it is within reason.
On a personal note, The Ring’s impact on me was that it prompted my interest and continuing love of horror/suspense movies, and was likely indirectly responsible for the existence of this blog. It was the beginning for me, even though I’d watch many other horror movies none ever really caught my attention or scared me, and gave me something to chase; The movie that would scare me. I can’t say the ring actually scared me, I enjoyed it immensely and was a little disturbed by it, but it made me start chasing the scare from horror movies (which I still am). Even on this repeated watch I jumped at least once, which I pretty much never do, and as such deserving great credit.
The Ring was the key horror movie that revived a genre, but was also a personal revival in my interest in the horror genre. It was steadily paced, suspenseful, and had a well crafted story that kept you intrigued all throughout. The ending was unique for the time and still holds one of the best final moment scenes of any horror movie I’ve watched. If asked to choose my all time favorite horror movie The Ring would be a top contender and hard to beat, but there is some competition. With the second sequel Rings coming out soon, if you haven’t seen The Ring watch it. It is a must see movie, and unique for so many reasons.
Overall: 4.1/5 (General)