First up though: The Ring is the best remake / reimagining / reboot or whatever you wanna call them in the last decade. Films like this and Dawn of the Dead justify the 573 crappy films that come out every year trying to capitalise on the skill and/or success of other films.
The Ring starts with a mystery VCR Cassette that appeared from nowhere it seems, whoever watches it gets a phone call that whispers only “7 days”, 7 days later something is summoned and the viewer dies, usually with a look of pure wretched terror smeared across their face.
Now that sounds straightforward, and upon scrutiny we can tick off a lot of other clichés from dozens of other horror films:
- The protagonist is a woman (named Rachel).
- Rachel is a single mother (to son Aidan with ex Noah).
- Aidan is creepily mature and emotionless.
- The ghostie moves strangely, and is a girl whose face is covered in long black hair.
Check. Check. Check. Checkity-Check-CHECK!
“So tell me then Mr, why is The Ring any good?” I hear you ask.
Well doubter, The Ring is better than just good, but for too many reasons to explain…
I’ll try anyway;
Firstly, Naomi Watts isn’t afraid to make herself look like a goose, I’ve seen the film a dozen times, I love the film and I still think that it makes hardly any sense.
A VCR summons a chick from a horse farm via a well in a chalet through a TV?
Yet Watts is deadly serious throughout, though perhaps the furrowed brow represents the fact that she has no clue what the hell is going on. Nevertheless there is no hamming it up from anyone, even the no-name cast of randoms play it all straight up and Brian Cox in a two scene cameo is convincingly nuts.
The film gives you nothing that you don’t earn as a viewer, if you snooze for a little you’ll miss key info, in saying that the fact that none of what happens really makes any sense anyway if you think too hard, so perhaps it might be better not to concentrate… What do I know?
Secondly, despite the fact that in the opening scene a young teenage girl on a sleepover is the first victim, there are no big “Wow” setpieces in the film. No carefully staged, well choreographed deaths with multiple fake loud noise scares and perhaps a flying cat suddenly appearing to shock you. Everything grows through Rachel’s investigation, with each seemingly minor discovery building the tension and creating further unease.
It’s again fair to say that a lot of the unease is found through not knowing exactly what is going on, but random bloods noses and photos of flies coming to life aren’t run of the mill occurrences.
The video itself is also pretty creepy and most definitely offputting, with staccato imagery that appears to be randomly spliced images, some cringe-inducing. When you later see some of the actual images crop up during the film it is a little eerie.
Thirdly, none of the growing unease and serious stuff would mean squat if there were no payoff to be found. The final third of the film finds everything falling into place, again there are no earlier clues and they don’t join the dots so to speak, each discovery leads them to another place to look. In the end though once Rachel and Noah “solve” the case and breathe a sigh of relief we the audience think well that’s that then…
Only it wasn’t.
Fourthly and finally, the real finale of The Ring gets the hairs on my arms standing on end every time. What should be hokey actually works so well that it demands repeat viewings, most horror films lose 60% of their impact after the first viewing, and a second often wraps up any loose ends from the first viewing that you missed. For real scare value there are precious few horror movies that hold up, simply because you know exactly what’s coming up and the surprise factor is gone. Only this film, Session 9 and perhaps the Exorcist hold up to repeat viewings, they may no longer scare but I grin inanely in the moments prior to the reveal because I know what’s coming.
If you can get a newbie to watch it with you that’s even better.
Even writing about this film is annoying, trying to explain it only confirms the logic holes and flaws, even if you simply try to cover the early events. If you are a horror buff and you have doubts after reading the above please ignore my shambolic inane ramblings and give the film a chance, it is worth your time.
This is no tacky cheap horror film, this is the real thing.
Final Rating – 8.5 / 10. A horror film for those that claim horror is an inferior genre and not worthy of respect. Watch it with the lights off and the sound up.