The Ring (2002)

So I guess if you have to blame any film for Hollywood’s obsession with remaking Asian horror movies, it’s this one. It certainly seemed to start the whole thing rolling – The Grudge came soon after, along with Dark Water, One Missed Call, The Uninvited and a whole host of increasingly crappier and crappier films.

With that in mind, does that mean that this one is just as bad as the others? The answer is a resounding ‘no’. Far from it, in fact; in my humble opinion, Gore Verbinski’s The Ring is one of the best horror films in recent memory.

Based on Japanese director Hideo Nakata’s Ring (which, in turn was based on Koji Suzuki’s book), we follow the story of Seattleite journalist Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts) as she discovers a mysterious video tape that is rumoured to kill people exactly a week after they watch it. Whilst investigating the tape, she is led to a secluded island, where she unearths the story of Anna and Richard Morgan (Shannon Cochran and Brian Cox respectively) and their daughter Samara (Daveigh Chase). It is then up to Rachel to try and decipher the video tape’s curse before her week is up.

Keeping in mind that this is his first horror feature film, Gore Verbinski does a fantastic job at setting the atmosphere. The whole film is awash with a bluish tinge, lending even the busiest of Seattle’s streets a dreariness that adds to the sense of impending doom that the film portrays. The tension is ramped up nicely; only rarely does Verbinski fall into the old ‘jump scare’ trick (and even then it’s pulled off remarkably well, helped along with some fantastic prosthetics by make-up wizard Rick Baker. Those of you who have seen it will know what I’m talking about).

Ehren Kruger does a wonderful job of translating the script for Western markets, which must have been no mean feat considering how far Japanese culture stretches back in history. However, this says more about the quality of the original than of Kruger’s talent – watch the sequel if you don’t believe me. Actually, on second thoughts, don’t.

The actors all play their parts with much gusto – especially Naomi Watts, whose anguish at Samara’s vengeance is entirely believable – though David Dorfman and Daveigh Chase occasionally seem to have been taught at The Creepy Children’s’ School of Acting Creepily. But what the hell. They’re only kids and have a long way to go to truly exercise their acting chops.

Sequels and originals aside, however, I think what sets this film apart (and indeed, what sets any good film apart) is what can be inferred from it. Rather than this simply being a horror movie, it also critiques society’s reliance on technology – television especially; indeed, in a wonderful Rear Window-inspired shot, we see Rachel staring out at the apartment opposite, watching on as television is used to entertain, distract, or even in a more extreme case, baby-sit. It ponders the question that many modern films seem to be doing these days – where would be if technology turned against us? If this movie is anything to go by, then it‘s a safe bet that we’d all be decomposing in our closets. Apparently.

Rating: ★★★★★★★★☆☆

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