The Ring
Grade: A
Year: 2002
Director: Gore Verbinski
Writer: Kji Suzuki
Genre: Horror
Rated: PG-13

When the movie starts, the first thing you see is a house. You know the scene is going to turn into something big. This is the first element to a great horror movie. "The Shinning" opened up with a family driving through the mountains. It's that sterile feel that warms you up before you get into a chilling movie that will have you gasping when it's over. The image of that house worked so well at getting my mind going, I can't even remember if there were any opening credits.

The Ring opens with two girls channel surfing through nothing on TV. They discuss how harmful the screen emissions are to your brain; typical mindless chatter, and out-of-nowhere a discussion breaks out about a legend regarding an infamous tape. Whoever watches it, gets a phone call when it's over, and then dies seven days later. After the first girl finishes explaining the myth, her friend stares back in horror. She saw the tape, exactly seven days ago.

The Ring is the first good horror movie to have come out in a long time. And I've seen enough horror movies to make that claim. Since exhausting the Blockbuster library, I have been waiting for something like this to come along. M. Night Shyamalan's Signs brought chills and was a fun alien thriller, but The Ring evoked fear. Although it's not original, director Gore Verbinski did a masterful job of taking the story of Kji Suzuki from the 1998 Japanese film, Ringu, and making what will undoubtedly become an extremely successful fright flick. He did what you never get anymore from modern horror films, a good scary movie! Cinematographer Bojan Bazelli adds to the effectiveness, providing the feeling of isolation during scenes of driving down long roads through the rural country.

Rachel, (Naomi Watts) a Seattle reporter, decides to investigate the rumors after someone close to her has died as a result from watching the tape. She gets involved in the case, and eventually gets her hands on the one copy that killed four kids just days ago. She watches the tape, and now has seven days to solve the mystery before she too becomes a victim of The Ring.

Seeing the tape for yourself is a mind bending experience. It's a bunch of rough cuts and clips of ordinary objects in an evil atmosphere with a dark tone. Something just looks wrong with that lighthouse, sitting on the edge of the deserted cliff. There's something peculiar about the insect that appears lifelike when the tape is paused. Whether it turns out to make any sense or not, it's still all fun.

After her friend Noah, (Martin Henderson) sees the tape, the two of them can only try to solve the mystery while they're still alive. They examine the tape several times, with many of the images appearing on the film eventually coming to life in real time. The tape uncovers a story, one that is a dark tale in itself. It's about a girl named Samara ( Daveigh Chase). She is the product of a severely dysfunctional family. Strange events have occurred on the island where Samara lived. The prize winning horses that her family bred have all become ill, and her mother has driven herself to the point of insanity. That is all that I will tell you. It's important that you engage in figuring out some of the plot for yourself, alongside Rachel. You will have to follow her to the cursed island in order to find the answers that will ultimately decide her fate.

There are two things that people will find fault with in The Ring. First, the story is never pieced together. You're expected not wonder how this videotape was made, or who filmed it. You're not supposed to question the logic. But take my word for it, there isn't any time at any one point in the movie to reflect or question the storyline. It keeps you grilled throughout, only giving you a sense of relief after witnessing the entire theater jump out of their seats from the corner of your eye. I will also admit that a lot of the scares are cheap. But it doesn't do so in the annoying way that today's modern so-called horror films do; where everything has to jump out at you at an ear piecing violin chord in order to get a reaction from you. The way that The Ring brings out the fear in you deserves it's own paragraph. So please; read on.

The Ring uses very distilled and haunting images. There hasnt been such a ghastly looking child (Samara-and a lot of horror movies use children) since the Exorcist. Video footage of her in a mental hospital, with her long hair covering her face will stick in your mind for a long time. Ordinary objects are made to look creepy, such as a tall ladder leaning against a building. Or a woman brushing her hair in the mirror. The effects that the tape has on its viewers is also worth mentioning. Whoever gets this curse appears distorted in photographs or whenever on camera. Another terrifying scene is watching a horse break out of it's stable while on a ferry to the island where it is believed that the film came from. All of these combined details provide the necessary chokehold on you that will keep you guessing.

Unfortunately, The Ring doesn't escape the clich of the modern movie, where the smartest character in story may just be that smart-mouth kid. David Dorfman is that child. He plays Aidan, the son of Rachel. He has minor psychic abilities that are evident through his satanic style drawings, and will eventually have to help out his mom. He's not Haley Joel Osment, but you'll be reminded of him.

The transitions between scenes are a little rough, often teetering between tape footage and what is happening in real life, but it's effective nonetheless. Flashbacks of gruesome images keep the movie intense, and never boring.

The movie should have ended about five minutes before it finally did. It kept going, but never failed to continually twist the plot by hitting you with more surprises. Despite sacrificing a little clarity, your jaw will still be on the floor when it's over. It's that compelling. It's that chilling. It's that amazing. Go see The Ring just to watch a packed house freak out every couple of minutes. Go see it to makeup for all of disappointing horror films that you've seen in your lifetime. The Ring redeems it all. The images are so powerful, that it will stick to you like glue.

It would be insulting to the producers, after ranting and raving throughout the entire review, to have to mention to you that the ending is mind blowing. Expect it; you won't be disappointed. In fact, you may never go another day in your life without hesitating before putting a VHS tape into your VCR.

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Copyright 2002. All rights reserved. Contact Editor: Scott Spicciati