Spooky 'Ring' has more horror than meets the eye
By Marshall Fine
The (Westchester, N.Y.) Journal News
|THE RING (Rated PG-13 for profanity, violence, extreme suspense) Three and One-Half Stars (Good-to-Excellent).
A solid tale of the supernatural told with exacting suspense though with a tendency to try to explain too much. Starring Naomi Watt, Martin Henderson, Brian Cox. Directed by Gore Verbinski. DreamWorks Pictures, 110 minutes.
Directed by Gore Verbinski from a script by Ehren Kruger, "The Ring" has a nightmarish quality that embraces the illogic and randomness of dreams as it eerily explores a far-fetched tale of the supernatural.
Based on a Japanese film that was a huge hit in its home country, "The Ring" mines the territory of urban myths. In this case, the story that's making the rounds concerns a videotape that kills anyone who watches it seven days after viewing.
It's beautifully set up in a simple opening scene that uses nothing more frightening than the music, a ringing phone and the image of a static-filled TV screen to whip up a sudden crescendo of tension. A Seattle teen who supposedly has watched the video dies and it's up to her cousin, local newspaper reporter Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts), to track down the mystery of her death.
When she hears the videotape story, Rachel, a single mother, follows her cousin's trail backward, to a remote resort the cousin had visited with her boyfriend a week earlier. Once inside the cabin they'd rented, Rachel finds an unmarked videocassette on a shelf and pops it into the VCR.
What she sees is a succession of almost surreal images, involving a well, a mirror with reflections of a serene-looking woman and other images of swarming maggots, dead figures lying in the surf and odd men staring from farmhouse windows. As soon as the tape finishes, the phone in the cabin rings, telling Rachel she has only seven days to live.
What she does in those seven days involves investigating the origin of the tape, even as she begins to see manifestations of its curse. And, during that week, she isn't the only one to watch the film and find themselves at risk.
The film's only real flaw lies in its compulsion to offer logical (or at least possible) explanations for the events of the film.
But in horror films, the less you know, the scarier it all seems. Verbinski understands that the camera creates tension just by moving; he builds anticipation and suspense about what could be lurking just outside the frame, while rarely revealing what it might be. But he's less interested in showing us scary things than in making us believe he's going to show us scary things. The fear on the faces of his characters is always more chilling than any monster he might turn his camera on.
Watts has considerable pluck as this resourceful reporter whose imagination keeps threatening to run away with her. She's tougher than she was in "Mulholland Drive," not a horror-movie victim but, rather, a heroine. Martin Henderson, as her friend Noah, who finds himself drawn into this nightmare, provides comic relief. David Dorfman adds a spooky calm as Rachel's preternaturally adult-seeming son.
"The Ring" is a great ghost story: You might not buy all of it, but you still enjoy getting tweaked by every twist of its goose-flesh-inducing storytelling.
Rated PG-13 for profanity, violence, extreme suspense. 110 minutes.
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