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You were warned, were you not?
You were warned, and yet you thought,
“What harm could come from silly things
Like some old tape?”  The phone then rings,
And on the other end, you hear
A voice that whispers low and clear,
“Seven days.”
You look about
And start perhaps to have some doubt,
Unsure if you were dumb or brave
To laugh at legends, shrug and cave,
And possibly dig your own grave.

MPAA rating: PG-13

Urban legends are perfect subjects for horror because there’s always that one rumor or curse or half-serious tale of a crazed murderer that happens to be true, if only the protagonist can figure it out before they bite the dust. The Ring fits that mold well while adhering to the style of haunting, suggestive horror that I enjoy most.

Based on the Japanese book and film Ringu, The Ring is about a cursed video tape that kills its viewers seven days later, as illustrated by the familiar but tense opening with two teenage girls at home alone. When one dies, journalist Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts) decides to investigate the mysterious circumstances and watches the cursed tape herself, unwittingly exposing herself and her son Aidan (David Dorfman) to the evil unleashed by the bizarre images onscreen.

As I said, The Ring is “my kind of horror,” in that there’s far more effort on creating dread and atmosphere than on blood and guts, which I suppose is ironic considering it was directed by Gore Verbinski of Pirates of the Caribbean fame. Although it’s taken me this long to actually see it, its mop-headed villain girl (named Samara here, Sadako in the Japanese original) has become rather iconic, and I already knew of the film’s most famous scenes, such as the phone call whisper of “seven days” or the memorable television scene toward the end. (I guess there are several television scenes, but you probably know which one I mean.) Going in with such knowledge perhaps dampened the effectiveness of the scares, but I still appreciated the occasionally misleading tension and the gradually uncovered mystery.

It does fit my preferred style of horror, as did The Others and The Babadook, but there was something lacking in The Ring. Naomi Watts’ performance is fairly strong alongside costars Dorfman and Martin Henderson as her skeptical ex-husband, but there wasn’t as much of an emotional core to the story as there was in the other two films I mentioned. Plus, as the layers of the mystery were peeled back, it became a bit too convoluted, with too many puzzling twists that could only be explained by the argument that “there’s something supernatural afoot.”

The Ring didn’t quite have the dramatic oomph or shocking twist (it does try for both) that would elevate it to join my favorites, but it’s a potent horror flick nonetheless, with several evocative potential meanings for its title. The video tape plot device will immediately date it in years to come, but that isn’t automatically a negative since it doesn’t diminish the scares. I haven’t heard many good things about its two sequels, the most recent being Rings from this past year, so I think I’ll stick with this original for now, or if I’m feeling bold, maybe I’ll try the Japanese original original. One thing’s for sure, though: I definitely won’t be sitting anywhere near the screen!

Best line: (Richard Morgan, Samara’s father, to Rachel) “What is it with reporters? You take one person’s tragedy and force the world to experience it… spread it like sickness.”


Rank: List Runner-Up


© 2017 S.G. Liput
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