The Ring is a film I have meant to talk about for a while and it is, in fact, strange that I haven’t. This isn’t because I overlooked the film. I watched The Ring about a decade prior, and again only a couple of years ago, today’s viewing of the film makes the third. It is difficult to say for certain why I have never jotted down any thoughts about it. I have noticed the more my spare time becomes finite, the more often reviews fall through the cracks and never get written. That said, The Ring was an important film in the turn of the new millennium.
Directed by Gore Verbinski, the 2002 supernatural horror film was a remake of the 1998 Japanese horror film Ring, based on the novel of the same name by Koji Suzuki. The cast comprised itself of Naomi Watts, Martin Henderson, David Dorfman, Brian Cox, and Daveigh Chase, attaining a positive critical reception and an enthusiastic response at the worldwide box office.
Enthusiastic would be an understatement, actually. The Ring grossed nearly $250 million worldwide on a $48 million dollar production budget. The film was an enormous box office success and landed as the tenth highest grossing horror film of the 2000s when the dust settled (and that varies depending on your stance for where The Mummy Returns and Scary Movie should land). The film laid the foundation for the English-language remakes of Asian horror films in the 2000s, like The Uninvited, Mirrors, Shutter, The Eye, and The Grudge.
The film introduces the premise early on. Teenagers Katie and Becca discuss the strange and mysterious stories surrounding a cursed videotape; whoever watches the tape dies seven days later. They are both skeptical about the legend, although Katie is noticeable disturbed when she reveals she watched the tape a week prior. Shortly after, Katie is killed and Becca is institutionalized, unable to perceive what she has witnessed. Following Naomi Watts’ portrayal of a journalist named Rachel, The Ring tells the story of the cursed videotape and Rachel’s best efforts to find an explanation.
One word I always find myself thinking that applies to this film is – patient. The film opens in declarative fashion with the deaths of Katie and Becca, but is, otherwise, reserved and modest. This is not a film with a lot of gore or bloodshed, nor is it a film with a lot of scares either. The most disturbing imagery it has to offer is the wrangled up faces of Samara’s victims – which feel more outlandish than they do frightful. It is like the victims were petrified into making the silliest faces they could come up with.
With a runtime of just shy of two hours, you might find yourself wondering how The Ring fills up its time and, for that, I think you will be pleasantly surprised. This is a very classical film, benefited by new novelties. The Ring is more ghost story than straightforward. I can’t say that I ever found myself afraid while watching this film nor do I think that was the film’s immediate intent. I have never been of the belief that horror is inherently meant to scare you, at least not from a “boo!” or “gotcha!” standpoint.
The film is bolstered by a commendable performance from Naomi Watts and a valiant effort by David Dorfman, who, unfortunately feels a little disheveled and stilted, kind-of like the cliched “creepy kids” in a lot of horrors, a la Sixth Sense or The Omen. Naomi’s character is solid through and through, built-up as a reactant to circumstances that aren’t about her and thereby is treated accordingly. What I mean is, some called the character underdeveloped, whereas I think she is about where she needed to be. Some others were confused by The Ring, claiming it doesn’t “add up” to much or that it doesn’t “make any sense,” which is a criticism I find either mostly unfounded or as though the individuals went into it with a very different mindset than what I went into it with. I went into the film expecting a very surrealist and twisty concept, and I feel that I left feeling very “complete” by it.
The concept of The Ring is tragic and sad, and dark and immersive, carrying itself through surrealism and atmosphere. The mood is bolstered by Verbinski’s skillful hand, solid cinematography from Bojan Bazelli, and a valued score from Hans Zimmer.
The setbacks about the film aren’t what it does, but what it opts against. As said, most of the scares either don’t land or are nonexistent, and a lot of the imagery it does have, I feel could have been improved on. Even the iconic scene of Samara advancing toward the television screen, I watched and found myself thinking how better it would have been had they went with a more practical approach (having her literally crawl out from the television screen instead of an editing style poof in-front of her victims). I feel a lot was left on the table when it came to making Samara a more menacing and disturbing antagonist. I think that is about what takes away most from The Ring film, the feeling that they didn’t do as much with the concept as I feel they could have.
The Ring is a solid film. It offers capable hands almost entirely across the board, creating a smooth, high-quality production. Even if I don’t consider it as one of my favorite horrors, it has no doubt earned its place as one of the defining horror films of the early 2000s.