|Flying Squirrel Boxing Productions|
|The KO Picture Show|
|Presents. . .|
|The Ring (2002)
This DVD is due back to Blockbuster in Seven Days....."
Okay… so it’s not a boxing movie. But it DOES have a boxing-like title. Am I stretching? Yes. But there are no cross-genre horror/boxing movies (and believe me, I looked!) So, I’m settling for “The Ring”.
Perhaps more pressing than this 'wacky' flush-the-format review is the fact that EIGHT MILLION other reviews have already been written for both the American and Japanese versions of this film. Why would ANYONE turn to The KO Picture Show for my take on these oft-dissected pieces of cinema? What insight do I promise to offer? I can say, with no shame whatsoever… none.
But it’s Halloween, and I wanted to put up a scary movie review! Ttthhhppptt! (That’s me giving a ‘raspberry’, for the uninitiated)
But I digress. It sounds odd, but the American version of “The Ring” was my introduction to Asian horror movies. I had been reading about the popularity of the original “Ringu” in Japan on IMDb, and my interest was piqued. But back in ’98-’99, the only way you were getting imports were through rare or overseas DVD dealers and purchasing Region-free players, and I just wasn’t curious enough to spend that kind of money. But the buzz began to build and build, and just as I was ready to break down and start shelling out some shekels to watch sub-titled horror, news of the American “Ring” remake came out. And while I was usually on the side of the movie-geeked, somewhat snobbish “The book was SO MUCH better than the movie” argument, the “you should see the Japanese original FIRST” argument wasn’t as ingrained in me. I decided to wait and go see "The Ring" during its original release and, I have to admit... it got me.
For those that have been living under a rock for the last couple of years, or only visit the online community for porn and porn alone, I'll give a mercifully brief synopsis of the opening scene: Two high school-aged girls are going to have a sleepover. The parents are away, so they're home alone. They talk about school and boys and whatever else teenagers talk about, but soon the conversation turns towards the usual urban legend stuff; "Did you ever hear about the..." is a long time sleepover staple. So the one girl asks if the other has ever heard about a weird videotape that flashes a bunch of seemingly unrelated and somewhat creepy visuals on the screen, and once it ends you get a phone call where someone whispers, "Seven Days...", which is exactly how long you have to live. By the end of her description, the other girl's face has gone ashen. Her and some of her friends were at a cabin up in the woods, and THEY popped in a creepy video and got the "Seven Days..." call, and that was exactly ONE WEEK AGO! Needless to say, things don't end up so well for these 2 young girls.
After this very well crafted and spooky opening exposition, we meet Rachel Keller (Watts), a journalist who just happens to be the aunt of one of the doomed teenagers from the opening scene. Her curiosity is piqued when she finds out that EVERYONE who saw the mysterious videotape at last weekend's cabin getaway is now dead, and that they all died on the same day, at around the same time. During her quest to find the mysterious tape, we're introduced to her son Aidan (Dorfman) and Aidan's estranged father, Noah (Henderson). Sufficed to say, all three of our protagonists will be on the "Seven Day..." death countdown pretty early on in this one, and this race to find out the origin of the tape, investigate the mysterious little girl named Samara (Chase) who's linked to it, and to try to find a means of stopping the death that comes in the wake of said viewing is the engine that drives this baby.
The word 'atmospheric' is often used in the description of what's so creepy about both the American and Japanese versions of "The Ring". I've since watched both versions, and while I can't give you a Webster's-worthy definition of what "IT" is about these movies, I can try to give you an idea:
Ghosts are spooky. And malevolent ghosts are even spookier.
Am I putting too fine a point on it? Alright.. how about this... The key too a good ghost story is the eerie reveal; that moment in the tale that makes your blood go cold and you (and by 'you', I mean both the character(s) IN the ghost story and all of you sitting in the theater watching it) come to realize that you've assumed wrong to this point, ghosts are real, and you're in real danger. And both versions of this movie have those moments in spades. It's not JUST "BOO!" set-ups. It's the building tension of finding out who Samara is, and the meaning behind the images on that beyond-spooky tape. And the credit for this tension must be given to the movies' directors, Gore Verbinski and Hideo Nakata. Not to negate the actors' abilities, but the visuals in these movies would leave anyone gaping in terror. The principles aren't really asked to do much more than that.
Those of you out there who take pleasure in poking holes in "The Ring's" numerous plot holes are really missing the point. It doesn't matter WHY the stuff that happens happens, or the seemingly simple ways you could avoid death (What if you don't answer the "Seven Days..." call? What if you're not near a TV on the fateful Seventh day?). It's not the destination, people! It's all about the journey to find out (no matter how improbably it may seem) how a videotape can, literally, kill you.
The Jibblies! - 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9
While I stated that it's the 'atmosphere' and 'building tension' that make this American version of the movie a winner, there's 2 basic "scare" moments that stuck with me the most and haunted me for months afterwards (and I found a like-minded individual in Robert Berry, proud proprietor of the pop culture site RetroCrush. He included the following moments on his fantastic and, might I add, archetypical list of "The 100 Scariest Movie Moments". You should definitely go check it out!)
First was the scene during the post-funeral buffet at the house where our intrepid reporter's niece died. Rachel is speaking with the mother of the girl (which, I suppose, is either Rachel's sister or sister-in-law... I hadn't really thought about it until now), and she's expressing how sorry she is to hear about the girl's death. But the mother is obviously haunted by the state she found her daughter in; she isn't completely sold on the coroner's report of a simple heartattack. "You didn't see her face!", she says, but WE DO!, and the visage flashed on the screen will be tattooed on your brain forever! Bbbllubbaadeeeblabbbiiddddeeeeddoooooo! Gives me the chills every time I replay it in my mind!
The second moment is during the finale, where we find out just how Samara intends to collect on her "Seven Days..." phone call. I'm not really worried about spoiling this scene for you; I can't do it justice on the page. Samara's long, stilted walk from the fortuitous well on the television screen and into the living room is as jibbly-worthy as anything I've ever seen. It's the stuff of my nightmares.
Overall Rating - 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7
As I stated earlier, this was the starting point for my interest in Asian Horror Movies. I saw the Japanese original, "Ringu", soon after this. Other favorites of mine are both the American and Japanese versions of "The Grudge"/"Ju-On", Japan's "The Eye", and the fantastic Korean ghost story, "A Tale of Two Sisters". I've had discussions both online and with friends of mine about what makes these Asian horror movies so frightening to me, and I've come to some conclusions. Aside from my heightened fear of supernatural horror (moreso than what I'd call "reality-based" horror; ghosts freak me out more than serial killers), it's specific to the visions of Asian culture presented in these films. The idea that, behind the veil of an almost polite-to-a-fault-society, there's this seedy, haunted past just under the surface and behind closed doors. The juxtaposition of highly populated areas and the quiet, lonely solitude of their homes or apartments only serves to drive the point home more when evil stuff starts a-doin': "YOU'RE ALL ALONE, AND NO ONE IS COMING TO SAVE YOU!"
And little girl ghosts with long, straight, black hair that move like claymation are just intrinsically scary. I doubt you could convince me otherwise.
|Starring: Naomi Watts,
Martin Henderson, David Dorfman, Daveigh Chase
|"Reviewing the best (and worst) in Pugilistic Pictures!"|