Following a number of false starts that establish the film's unbalanced mood, The Ring rehashes an urban legend about a videotape. Very few people know its contents, though it's believed that the images found on the tape recap one person's nightmare. Initially I thought that tape was Police Academy 5: Assignment Miami Beach, but I was wrong. Once you watch the video, the phone rings and a child's voice on the other end of the line whispers, "Seven days." You now have one week to live.
When a close friend of the family dies following a viewing, Seattle newspaper reporter Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts) promises the victim's mother she'll ask around about the tape. Rachel watches the tape, receives the phone call, and her personal seven-day countdown to destruction begins. Her only hope of survival is to solve the mystery of the images on screen before her departure time arrives.
The Ring is based on Japanese director Hideo Nakata's horror film Ringu, which has become one of the highest grossing films in Japanese history. Aided by dreary Seattle locales, some rustic country set pieces and an ever-present mist, director Gore Verbinski Americanizes the action but retains its sense of ambiguity. Gray, bleak, washed out and frigid cinematography by Bojan Bazelli actually gives us the chills.
Then again, so do elements of Ehren Kruger's screenplay. There aren't a slew of gratuitous jolts and shocking scares, just a parade of bizarre events that keep us guessing the entire time. Children discuss another child's death as if they were recounting the last episode of VeggieTales. One boy communicates with the dead. Characters in The Ring know things they never could or should, which proves unnerving for both Rachel and the audience.
David Dorfman delivers a creepy, mature performance as Aidan, Rachel's son. He's the type of kid who calls his mother by her first name and has a pitch black stare you feel in the back your spine. Late in the film, the always reliable Brian Cox shows up to deliver a crucial plot twist with just the right gravitas. Still, it's Watts, playing a smoking hot Nancy Drew, who completely sells the entire game. Her range fluctuates from the inquisitiveness of a natural reporter to the panic, hysteria, and stark-raving fear associated with her ongoing investigation.
The Ring delivers a chilling murder mystery brimming with restless spirits and undead souls that unfolds piece by piece and gets under the skin as it does. Just don't think you've figured this one out before it ends. Chances are you haven't.
The Pacific Northwest plays such a significant role in The Ring, I'm wondering how the original Japanese version created its own chilly atmosphere. I'll find out eventually. I'm just not dying to watch anything on videotape for at least a few weeks.
The Ring on DVD is pretty fully immersive in the whole "spooky tape" experience. Even the FBI warning is interrupted by static... creepy. Two extra features appear in the menu -- "don't watch this," a short film comprised of outtakes that adds a minor amount to the movie's mythology, and "look here," which is actually the trailer for Ringu, which is also just now released on DVD in the U.S.
A new collector's DVD set adds a second disc of extras, including a short film called Rings that connects this movie with its sequel, along with the footage of the cursed videotapes in the movies, and a handful of new interviews and featurettes.
Just wait 'til you plug her in.
Run time: 115 mins
In Theaters: Friday 18th October 2002
Box Office USA: $128.6M
Box Office Worldwide: $249.3M
Distributed by: DreamWorks SKG
Production compaines: DreamWorks SKG, MacDonald/Parkes Productions, BenderSpink
Contactmusic.com: 4.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 72%
Fresh: 144 Rotten: 57
IMDB: 7.1 / 10
Director: Gore Verbinski
Producer: Walter F. Parkes, Laurie MacDonald, J.C. Spink
Starring: Naomi Watts as Rachel Keller, Martin Henderson as Noah Clay, David Dorfman as Aidan Keller, Brian Cox as Richard Morgan, Shannon Cochran as Anna Morgan, Daveigh Chase as Samara Morgan, Rachael Bella as Rebecca Kotler, Jane Alexander as Dr. Grasnik, Lindsay Frost as Ruth Embry, Amber Tamblyn as Katie Embry, Sandra Thigpen as Teacher, Richard Lineback as Innkeeper, Sara Rue as Babysitter, Adam Brody as Male Teen #1, Keith Campbell as Ship's Mate