Written By Angela DiLella
Edited By Grave Reviews Staff
Director: Gore Verbinski
Producer: Walter F. Parkes and Laurie MacDonald
Screenwriter: Ehren Kruger
Based on: American Remake of: Ring (1998), dir. Hideo Nakata
Date Released: October 18, 2002
Naomi Watts as Rachel Keller
David Dorfman as Aidan Keller
Martin Henderson as Noah Clay
Daveigh Chase as Samara
Rating = 3.5/5 Graves
***May contain some spoilers***
An urban legend tells of a tape that will kill anyone who watches it in seven days. Of course, the tape is all too real, and journalist Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts) finds herself wrapped up in the mystery after it kills her niece and as a result, she herself watches the disconcerting video featuring a murderous girl named Samara. Anyone that watches the disturbing video of seemingly random images, immediately gets a phone call that informs them that they will die in seven days and then they begin experiencing odd hallucinations and events.
This movie does not rely on gore to deliver its scares. Though the most you will see of any blood and guts is a bloody nose or two, there are some viscerally disturbing scenes that are almost more effective. Out of focus maggots, severed fingers, decaying skeletons, and hair, where hair definitely should more than make up for a lack of violent imagery.
The Grave Review
If you so much as know that horror movies exist, you probably know the phrase “You will die in seven days,” even if you don’t know what movie it’s from. The Ring hit the genre hard in 2002 and exercised a decade-long influence on American horror remakes and adaptations of Japanese horror films, and on American horror films in general.
The Ring (2002) definitely creates a palpable world. This remake is set in Washington, so everything has a gloomy feel, being that it’s always overcast or rainy. The film almost always has a green or blue cast to it, which emphasizes this feeling, though it does make the film look strange if you’re not watching it with all the lights off. The few exceptions are from tapes of Samara’s psychiatric sessions, which are in a stark white room, and force you to home in on the evil little girl. Rachel lives a very modern life, but when her search for the truth behind the cursed videotape takes her to the island where Samara was born, it seems to unravel. The orderly world the viewer recognizes seems to melt away to reveal the truth of a grimmer, unbalanced, and strangely timeless world just below the surface.
The revelation builds an oppressive dread and tension effectively. From the very start, even in the first five minutes when nothing has happened yet, things feel off. The viewer is immediately on guard, and the first payoff—Rachel’s niece’s body—lets viewers know that they were right to be scared. Although the reveal is a shock, it isn’t exactly a jump scare, so no tension is actually broken, and this pretty much carries through the film. The end doesn’t exactly offer a neat conclusion, either, so one could argue that the sense of unease continues long past you’re done watching the movie. The only downside to this delicate build-up is the few moments of true action, such as a horse suddenly driven to madness or a falling television: they come so suddenly out of the slow build and quiet scares that they aren’t even jump-scares, they’re very nearly slapstick. Still, they’re only very quick blips on the radar that do not affect the mood that is, overall, successful, especially in the movie’s true climax.
The characters are also somewhat flat, though the mystery and actual scares almost make this unimportant. When the viewer is with Rachel, trying to solve the mystery, the film is totally absorbing, and she seems perfectly fine. However, the flatness is difficult to ignore when characters are interacting. Further, the way Rachel, Noah (Martin Henderson), her ex-boyfriend who is trying to help her solve the mystery, and Aiden (David Dorfman), her son who appears to have a psychic link with Samara, never seem quite right for people with these types of relationships.
I also fear that this movie, although inescapable in the early 2000s, has aged poorly. As VHS tapes become less and less commonplace, the movie loses a large part of its potential to scare younger audiences, and even older audiences who are familiar with tapes but simply don’t use them anymore. Through no fault of the movie itself, the fact that the film was played off Hulu, prevented the HiFi-Norm message flickering in the corner of the screen. There is a whole other level to watching a movie about a killer VHS tape when you’re watching it on an actual VHS tape.
All in all, The Ring (2002) may not exactly live up to the reputation it has carried since its original release in 2002, but it is still a horror movie worth watching at least once, and maybe even twice, so you can pick up on even more details. It is certainly one of the best examples of the J-horror trend that arose in the US in the early to mid-2000s. If you do choose to check this one out, though, I really do recommend you try to find a VHS copy and player. It really does alter the experience for the better.
Do you agree with our review of The Ring (2002)? Comment below.
You may also like our review on the film, The Wailing.