Naomi Watts, Martin Henderson, Brian Cox
Sara Michelle Fetters
"The Ring Circles in on
cinematic double-header for ghost story lovers this weekend at
the local Cineplex. Not only is David Twohyís great haunted
submarine thriller Below filtering into more theaters
nationally, now comes Gore Verbinskiís The Ring, starring
Naomi Watts. Not only is it a sensationally scary movie,
itís also a real treat for thriller fans sick to death of movies
like Swimfan, New Best Friend and Fear.com
masquerading as psychological chillers.
Keller (Watts) is a Seattle reporter whoís tragically just lost
her niece Katie (Amber Tamblyn, General Hospital). While
the medical examiner claims the girl suffered from heart
failure, Katieís mother just doesnít buy it and urges Rachel to
find the truth. At first reluctant to do so, it isnít until
talking to a few of Katieís friends and learning that the girlís
boyfriend and two others all died at the exact same time as her
niece that the investigative reporterís interest becomes peaked.
looking into their last days, she follows the trail to a remote
cabin nudged into the Pacific Northwest countryside. There she
learns about a VHS videotape that, according to an urban legend
circulating amongst area youth, will kill you seven days after
youíve watched it. Finding an unmarked tape nestled amongst a
random collection of other films, Rachelís curiosity gets the
better of her and she watches the freakish video.
know what they say about curiosity. After a phone call informs
her of her impending demise, Rachel becomes understandably
intent on finding everything she can about this tapeís
mysterious origins and solving the riddle imbedded in its
surreal imagery. Enlisting the help of friend and media expert
Noah (Martin Henderson,
Windtalkers), itís a race against time to put together
the clues that can unlock the secret of the cursed video and
save her life. This race becomes even more vital after her young
son Aidan (David Dorfman, Bounce) watches the tape,
sending Rachel onto an increasingly panic-driven quest.
Verbinski finally fulfills much of that promise as a director so
many in Hollywood seem to think heís had. Personally, what with
the middling Mousehunt and the train wreck
The Mexican, I never saw it.
Call me a convert Ė well, at least for one film Ė for Verbinski
handles the mechanics of The Ring beautifully. The
imagery is subtle, dank and dangerous. He uses the lush Pacific
Northwest scenery majestically, making every leaf and rock feel
like a harbinger of danger and doom. There are moments that
recall the slow, methodical horror of Kubrickís The Shining,
and he pulls some nifty stationary camera tricks out of
Polanskiís bag hiding action just out of eyesight, much like in
go over the top a few times. When one character dies by
electrocution, one item canít just fall into the tub. No,
Verbinski has to make the small bathroom look like the
production designer from Brazil came in and threw every
unused appliance from that film in to it. Also, the director is
fond of using slow, precise misdirection to then produce a big
ďjump!Ē moment and while that works the first couple of times,
by the time he does it for the fourth or fifth you canít help
but let out a slight yawn.
saves the big jumps and scares for a killer climactic scene.
This is a ghost story where the ghost doesnít really do too much
and a character's psychological torment mainly gets inflicted by
themselves. That said, when the ghost finally does make its
move, the sequence is a real corker and one of the truly
heart-stopping moments this year. I almost couldnít take it Ė
and I knew it was coming.
Ring is based on the highly regarded book by KŰji Suzuki and
the outstanding 1998 film Ringu from Japan and is that
rare remake that actually stands along side the original. (What
a year 2002 has been for foreign-to-Hollywood thriller remakes,
what with Christopher Nolanís excellent adaptation of
Insomnia earlier this summer and now this. Maybe all those
complaints about crappy remakes finally struck a nerve with some
of the usually crap-happy executives in Tinsel Town?) Ehren
Krugerís (Arlington Road,
Scream 3) screenplay is frightfully good, not forgetting
to mix in smarts with scares. Itís also surprisingly faithful to
the core ideas in the Japanese original while still carving its
own creepy path.
is Watts, which should come as no surprise to those that caught
her in David Lynchís mindbender from last year. As the movie
unwinds, she transforms from a selfish workaholic, to obsessed
sleuth, to finally a fierce protective mother trying to ensure
the welfare of her only child. These arenít traits explicitly
spelled out in the script, and it is by Watts own doing that we
see it take place, thus wrapping us tighter and tighter to her
turmoil and deadly game of Nancy Drew-like mystery solving.
Ultimately, though, The Ring just wants to scare the
bejesus out of an audience, and that it does in spades.
Verbinski and company have crafted an exemplary thriller, and
maybe one of the yearís best films, too.
Rating: 3.5 out of 4