I walked into The Ring
,yet another recent
foreign hit that has been absorbed, remade and spit back out by Hollywood, glad that I did not have the bias of seeing the acclaimed original (the Japanese film Ringu
) of this new production, a mindset that all but ruined Christopher Nolan’s Insomnia
. Two hours later I exited the theater with a mouth thick from bitter irony, wishing I had seen the original so it could explain just a little bit of what I just spent the last two hours watching.
The ever increasingly lovely Naomi Watts plays Rachel, a journalist single mother who happens upon a long rumored video tape that, once watched, sentences you to a death seven days after your viewing. Gimmicky to be sure, the premise is more suitable for Scream
than it is for The Shining
, but with Watts journalistically trying to track down the origin of the tape and director Gore Verbinski’s profound need to coat every scene in silver rain the movie reeks of a delicious, moody trick ending that will put all confusions to rest.
The confusions arise mainly from an unhealthy and very disorienting mix of the real and the supernatural in the film, where a woman who knows she will die in a couple days slowly takes her time walking from here to as if in a more languidly paced horror film, and where something as wildly unbelievable as a VHS cassette that kills its viewers is somehow linked to the very real issue of child abuse. As Rachel dreamily follows the trail of the tape (which shows “images from someone’s nightmare” but turns out is more like a set of clues to follow) with her ex boyfriend Noah (Martin Henderson) the tape recedes in its importance to the horror of the plot as they happen upon a convoluted mess of child abuse, crazy horses, children’s revenge fantasies
and eventually to a sinister but very odd metaphor for journalism. The Ring
struggles to get past its gimmicky supernatural setup by including a melting pot of vague psychological background stories that are somehow suppose to explain how a tape was created that kills its viewers but the film is not this ambitious, and taking handful of supernatural thrills and trying to mush it together with a handful of reality based explanations is pretty much impossible when the plot hinges on a movie that kills the viewer exactly a week after he or she watches it. Frailty
, a horror film released 6 months ago similarly linked its terror to child abuse, but in a completely believable fashion, and The Ring’s reliance on a tape to kill its victims is pretty dumb. The idea of a killer tape works at a theme that sparks to life at the end, only to be extinguished by a lack by the film's desire to also be scary. The theme is murky, and is hard to pick up on behind a lot of the psychological mumbo jumbo that is suppose to add to the general creepiness. To bad the movie lacks any real scares or jumps, as Verbinksi resorts to predictable genre tricks (Ack a sudden loud sound! or “Oh no my nose is bleeding for no reason!”) to get a reaction instead of focusing on the potential (or lack of) of the story.
These thrills, few and far between, seems to echo inside the hollow, frightless center of the while; and athough Ms. Watts seems to have the watchable-no-matter-what-she-is-in gene, and Brian Cox of all people shows up grimace and then die, The Ring
simply cannot be saved. Another note for director Verbinski: Supplementing a goofy plot with permanent weather effects is not the same thing as creating a creepy atmosphere, and the film strains ever so hard to reach the level David Fincher’s Se7en
set for anonymous, claustrophobic, all encompassing dank atmosphere, the kind so strong that it bleeds from the outside of the world into the souls of a city’s inhabitants.
There is an unusual stand out moment in the film though, which almost seems to separate from the narrative as the plot goes on pause and Watt’s character actually get some reflection time instead of being a plot propellant: Rachel goes out on the balcony of a remarkably alien looking apartment complex to get some fresh air but her eyes end up drifting around to the various apartments across from hers and it occurs to her that there is a TV on in all of them-a subtle scene that only gains meaning at the end of the film where the idea of the killer tape as a forced first person human interest story is startling, and confusingly, brought up. What The Ring
was really going for I am not sure, but its tepid thrills and general convolution of a genre did not help matters.