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Retro Movie Review: The Ring (2002)
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The Ring
Available now on Blu-ray
Written by Ehren Kruger
Directed by Gore Verbinski
Based on the novel by Kôji Suzuki
Starring Naomi Watts, Martin Henderson, Brian Cox, David Dorfman, Jane Alexander
DreamWorks
Rated PG-13 | 115 minutes
Release date: October 18th, 2002

Rings, the third installment in the American “Ring” series hits theaters everywhere Friday. Fifteen years ago Gore Verbinski’s The Ring opened, and set off a chain reaction that changed an entire genre. Based on the 1998 Japanese horror film Ringu, directed by Hideo Nakata from the original novel by Koji Suzuki, The Ring terrified viewers here and was a critical and financial success, earning a 72% on Rotten Tomatoes and almost $130 million. That success spawned a whole slew of J-horror knock offs and remakes including The Grudge (2004), Dark Water (2005), Pulse (2006), and the notoriously awful One Missed Call (2008). The sequel, The Ring 2 also came in 2005.

Before we watch Rings Friday, let’s revisit 2002’s The Ring.

In 2002, I was living in a huge 3-bedroom apartment in Binghamton, New York. It was the most stereotypical college town around, and three of my best friends drove up from the city to visit. The first night there, wanting to relax after a long drive, we decided to hit the movies, and since we were all horror buffs, we saw The Ring… and we HATED it! We openly mocked it in theaters, laughed hysterically at parts that were to be taken seriously, and drew the ire of plenty of scared college students. I don’t know what it was about the film, but the 20-year old me was just NOT buying what the filmmakers were selling. For fifteen years I refused to ever rewatch the film, convinced my minority opinion was correct. But then I got passes to see Rings at a special premiere tonight, and I decided the time was right, fifteen years later, to put in the tape… or rather queue it up on Amazon.

Ah the early 2000s, when videotapes and VCRs were not ancient artifacts, people still developed film, polaroids were still cool, and the flip phone was the forefront of modern tech. First off, I must officially retract my long held opinion that The Ring is terrible. It’s clearly a well made film, and director Gore Verbinski introduces a lot of the camera style and visual cues he’d perfect later on in the Pirates of the Caribbean series, albeit to a more comedic nature. The horror though, is well placed, the atmosphere of the film is dark and gloomy, and I actually really love how it’s colored in a way to appear drab and almost black and white. Also, the performances are really good throughout. Naomi Watts, despite having acting credits dating back to the mid 80s, was propelled to superstardom after this and Daniel Dorfman as young Aidan was truly convincing as the haunted kid. Verbinski also benefits from great veterans like Brian Cox and Jane Alexander in minor supporting roles.

My main issues are, as they were in 2002 with the plot and the “scares.” Literally everyone Watts and ex-beau Noah (Martin Henderson) encounter while researching the tape’s origin tells them that Samara was evil, and everything got better when she was gone… so of course the protagonists go and free her spirit from the well, ignoring everyone they spoke to. And then there’s the “epic scare” moment, when Samara creeps out of the television… I still don’t get why this is scary. This scene ranks highly on many “All-Time” lists and it just felt very contrived, like, “Hey, there’s 10 minutes left and we need something to leave audiences talking!”
The Ring was and still is a well paced, atmospheric horror film, but at the same time one that was definitely a product of its time. In the modern world of social media and YouTube, the concept of a killer VHS tape is hard for new audiences to wrap their heads around. In the new film, I’m sure the modern technology will play a huge role in the spreading of The Ring curse. I’m glad I decided to give The Ring another go-round after 15-years. Verbinski returns to the thriller genre with A Cure for Wellness coming out later this month. The Ring is available for rent or purchase on Amazon.com and Rings comes out in theaters everywhere Friday, February 3rd.

Video

The Ring – Trailer

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