The Ring opens just weeks before Halloween. With its PG-13 rating, it’s sure to get a big audience looking for a scare. Though hard-core fans of horror films may be disappointed, The Ring has enough frights to satisfy the big crowds.
PG-13 for supernatural scary stuff
The Ring’s premise is that there is a certain cursed videotape. If you watch it, you will get a phone call that foretells your death in seven days. Sure enough, an opening segment with two teenage girls proves the myth to be true.
The victim’s aunt Rachel (Naomi Watts), a reporter, becomes fascinated by the story of the cursed tape and decides to do a little research. At the remote cabin where her niece stayed seven days before her death, Rachel views the creepy videotape and gets the dreaded phone call.
Rachel enlists the help of a photographer friend, Noah (Martin Henderson), and together, they work to decode the mystery of The Ring in a seven-day race against the clock. The film plays very much like a murder mystery. Clues are revealed one at a time, each leading to further clues.
Answering The Most Important Question
The most important question for this type of movie is whether it is scary. The Ring defies a definite answer. Half of the audience seemed genuinely scared. Indeed there are creepy moments, along with a few gratuitous sudden frights which are admittedly effective.
But the film could have been more frightening. You won’t find anything scarier at theaters for Halloween, but you could certainly do better if you widen your options to DVD or video. (Try Poltergeist, The Shining or the original version of The Haunting.)
Restoring The Balance
Fear factor aside, The Ring has other good and bad qualities.
Visually, The Ring is consistently good. It is full of dreamlike images, not only on the cursed videotape, but in the images Rachel and Noah come across in their investigations. Haunted places like lighthouses, barns, and foggy ships give the movie a suitably ghostly look. There are also unbalanced images like photographs that refuse to focus or glimpses of something moving on a TV screen. These visual pieces add up into a coherent style for the whole film.
There is also an admirably uneasy ending that is morally ambiguous, not unlike the one at the end of Memento. It’s surprising, emotional, and uncompromising.
But the complexity of the premise raises some questions better left unasked, like what happens to people with VCRs but no telephone? What happens to people who only watch part of the tape?
Also, Rachel’s son Aidan (David Dorfman), who seems to have a direct line to the supernatural world changes the course of the film with a seemingly shocking revelation. What he says has a big emotional impact but on reflection doesn’t make sense.
On the whole the good balances out with the bad, making a solid, middle-of-the-road film that, while not great, is likely to satisfy October crowds.