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The Ring (2002)

Dir: Gore Verbinski

Before we start it should be pointed out that this is a more tricky review to write than virtually any other. The reason? Well it’s very difficult to be objective about a US remake of a modern classic of the horror genre – the remarkable understated Japanese chiller Ringu. Just the thought of a re-make is heresy enough. So for those captivated by the original it is better to leave this one well alone, for those who haven’t then go and see the original and then leave this one well alone.

Still here? Oh well. If the thought of reading subtitles is too hard to cope with, The Ring offers a fair number of scares, a lot of creeps and a decent amount of atmosphere. Right from the start, the basic premise (kept a mystery for some time in the original) is laid open – watch the spooky video tape, get a phone call, die seven days later in mysterious circumstances leaving a corpse with a very, very nasty expression on it’s face. Seattle Post reporter Rachel becomes embroiled in the “co-incidental” deaths of four teenagers who had, a week before, shared a cabin in the woods. How does this connect with a bizarre and inexplicable videotape, the long past suicide of horsey woman Anna Morgan and the strange case of adopted child Samara? Rachel fears she has to find the answer, and pretty quickly at that, for she too has seen the tape, as has her son and her estranged partner. Time is running out…

Verbinski’s film tries hard to keep its audience engaged without running into blind hysteria. It mercifully remains in Sixth Sense style creepy territory, with the odd jump thrown in. Trying to be objective there are plus points in the film’s favour. The pacing is spot on, the video footage is suitably beguiling and some of the imagery involving water, ladders and a beach of dead horses create an almost indescribably surreal sense of logic to the piece. Unfortunately Samara is no Sadako and this is what really hits the film for six – the menace and psychological distortions of the original have become far less grotesque and (spoiler alert!) Samara’s forced incarceration in a well is limited to but seven days, tying in with the “number of days ’til you die”, but removing the extremity of Sadako’s situation. And the “out of the telly” bit has lost a lot of its organic power to petrify. Ultimately the scenes where the film deviates from the Japanese version provides some of its better moments, but where it fails when trying to recreate the original’s slow set-pieces and air of menace. By no means the total disaster it threatened to be, The Ring delivers the requisite thrills to its intended target audience and remains far more intelligent than most contemporary western horror films. That said a proposed sequel is in the pipeline, potentially ruining what, in this version, was an unexpectedly decent low-key ending (The Vanishing re-make groan style “Please call me sometime… unless you’re renting a movie” (boom!boom!) notwithstanding).