| The Ring (2002) |
It isn't often that a decent horror movie comes along. Most of them are just poorly directed, lazily put together and futile in their attempts to make a mark. The Ring, while not being a horror movie per se - more of a psychological thriller, is the first American remake of a Japanese classic that has been very successful. Gore Verbinski, who also directed the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, has really tapped into the potential of this genre of film.
Essentially a young female journalist (Naomi Watts) sets out to investigate a mysterious video tape with disturbing images after her niece and three friends all died at the same time apparently of terror exactly one week after watching it. Soon Rachel and later her separated husband embarks on a race against time to save herself and her son from the tyranny of the dead psychic girl Samara, who's spirit thirsts for vengeance on humanity.
On the plus side this movie is scary. I have not seen the Japanese version so obviously I cannot give any opinions on which version is superior, but I will say that this movie is clever. After watching it again you realise it is not as subtle i.e. in the symbolism in the video tape and their corresponding hallucinations as it was initially but the odd trick makes for some spine chills. I personally couldn't sleep due to the Japanese maple tree that was shown just sitting there isolated on the hill with the sunlight passing through it. Also the squished up faces of people seen through electrical equipment e.g. cameras as a mark of a cursed person really creeped me out. The plot is very clever as well and the quest to find out the truth about Samara and the suicide of her mother and the horses was intriguing.
I'd love to say this is the best scary movie I have ever seen, but I am unable to because yet again, anti-male messages spoil it for me. They are subtle of course such that the average person wouldn't notice and is very typical of a hyped up American film. Firstly there is Rachel the main character who is a single mother who appears to have her extremely creepy son Aiden (David Dorfman) dumped on her by her separated husband Noah who is portrayed as a typical deadbeat dad. She is shown to be some poor stressed out workaholic who is harassed by her male colleagues and is clearly paying the sole child support for her son (which is unlikely in reality - the father is the one paying child support). She is not entirely unlikeable though bitchy in general and isn't exactly a perfect mother as she seems to have no idea how to act around her son who calls her by her first name.
Still her relationship with her son is far better than Noah's as clearly pointed out by the father and son looking at each other and passing by each other in the depressing rain of Seattle. Later we see Aiden's scorn for him as he tries to justify his being such a small part of his life by finishing Noah's sentence (We were young and foolish). Aiden's apathy and Noah's initial lack of interest is yet another convenient example of anti-father messages in good films. It was probably necessary to help reduce the shock of Noah's eventual demise.
That isn't the only example of anti-father messages in the film. There are a few other subtle examples (such as when the first typical female victim of the tape played by the feminist actress Amber Tamblyn is killed and as usual the mother is the one picking up the pieces while the father just sits there like a zombie doing nothing) but the other big one is the story of Samara (whose eventual appearance reduced the scare factor of the movie drastically) who rants to the insensitive male doctor in a television interview about how her father hates her and wants her to go away but loves her mother.
Samara herself is portrayed as pure evil and misanthropic in spite of the initial love she is surrounded by and this redeems the movie slightly as the typical idea is to portray female villains as innocent victims whenever possible. Further the mother is actually the one who kills her by throwing her into a well. I was pretty sure that the father would be the one to do the honours as well as possibly sexually assaulting her but I was mistaken.
All in all this is a superb attempt at retelling genius Japanese horror genre and though the whole video tape that kills you when you watch it marks the beginning of the end for movies of its type you will more likely than not find it difficult to sleep for a few weeks.
- Reviewed by Mr.Doesn'tgiveadamn
Certification: USA: PG-13, UK:15, Canada: 14 for thematic elements, disturbing images, foul language and some drug references.
Runtime: 1 hour and 55 minutes