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The Ring - Explained in Detail (Big Spoilers),
This review is from: The Ring (Widescreen Edition) (DVD)
The Ring (unlike its inferior sequel) is a complex, mysterious movie with a deep backstory. However, it is told in a subtle almost evasive way in which the audience needs to figure it out through repeated viewings. The Ring's fascinating yet mysterious story spawned many websites and web forums simply devoted to unraveling its mysteries. If you were ever confused about what in the world this movie was about here are the basic meanings behind the story. Though the movie is meant to be "interpretive" and many create their own explanations to many of the mysteries, here are the ones generally agreed upon by The Ring aficionados. Much of this information is taken from Ring websites and forums. WARNING: Watch the movie first since this will basically give all the major story behind the plot away. You've been warned.
The Backstory of Samara and the Morgan's:
Samara, when alive, was a very powerful psychic child with a terrible sadistic streak. She could implant her nightmarish mental images into photograph film. This specific ability is labelled by Eola County Psychiatric Hospital as "projected thermography". This is what is generaly known as PHOTOKINESIS (the telekinetic ability to create, control, and manipulate light and energy). She also had limited Telepathic powers as she had the ability of implanting thoughts and images into the minds of others (into her parent's minds and the horses at the Morgan ranch), however, she could not tell the future nor read other's minds since she could not stop her own murder. She may have had Hydrokinesis (the ability to manipulate water) and she also seems to have Pyrokinesis (the ability to manipulate fire) -- the wooden walls in her barn room were burned by her. Anna Morgan could not have a child naturally and according to her husband Richard, "was not supposed to". The Morgan's left the island and came back with a very young Samara, "adopted, they said". Afterwards Samara began attacking Anna Morgan (along with the horses and apparently Richard Morgan) with horrific images and hallucinations. Anna was driven almost insane and would spend hours brushing her hair in front of a mirror for no reason. Anna spent some time in a mental ward. Samara was diagnosed by doctors and paranormal researchers. Richard Morgan apparently put a stop to that and tries to hinder any more attention on the "little monster" Samara (apparently out of concern for society). Anna, out of sheer torment and maybe also out of concern for society, kills Samara by throwing her down the well. (Its interesting to note that Richard may have also been there helping since its unlikely Anna had the strength to move the stone lid over the well by herself). After spending seven days slowly dying at the bottom of the well Samara contemplates revenge on all humanity over her horrific death. Anna Morgan commits suicide by jumping off a cliff apparently out of a combination of guilt and persisting hallucinations (probably intensified by Samara's agony and rage directed at Anna while dying in the well).
There are shown several documents regarding the whole backstory from which some of the above is based on. There are two interesting ones of note. A certificate of live birth of Samara is shown stating the Morgan's as parents. Another interesting document states that Samara was impervious to physical pain. Neither of these two documents seems to be of any relevance in either of the two Ring movies.
Samara, the present:
Samara, now dead, exists mainly in these 3 primary ways:
1) Her psychic energy persists inside the minds of her victims who watched the tape (in dreams and hallucinations).
2) Part of her psychic energy seems to persists in the physical world mainly in broadcast signals (air waves, phone lines) and magnetic media like VHS tape, (example: the phone rings when you make the connection to her after watching the tape). When alive one could assume that Samara learned or accomplished this while spending months isolated in a barn with only a television as her companion.
3) Around the immediate vicinity of death. Her spirit haunts that place down in the well.
The images on the tape are a combination of dream imagery and symbols that representing some aspects of Samara's life, her suffering and death, and the "nightmare images" she likes to come up with. Most prominent was the ring of light created by the well's stone lid that she would stare at for seven days until she died -- hence The Ring.
Samara, now dead, has no power over the world or the living, except down in the well which she haunts. The ONLY way Samara could spread her curse and kill her victims was through the visuals of her VHS tape. The images act as a conduit for her psychic force to infect the minds of the ones who watch the images. If Samara is in your head, she can kill you! (Apparently in the most horrific way causing cardiac arrest and facial deformity.) The VHS tape concerned in the movie had its origin in the lodge that was built above her well where the teens where taping a football game but the "curse" images were taped instead. Samara's angry spirit did it. The victims, with Samara firmly in their brains overseeing them now, were spared death if they made a copy and made someone else watch it, but that is merely a riddle that few can solve in time. Thus, a perpetuator of the curse is spared death but most will die.
The death of Richard Morgan:
Richard Morgan was still being plagued by the hallucinations for years until his death (he states this in the bathtub scene) and somehow knew that now (via the tapes) Samara's curse was out in the world so he kills himself. Richard thought the tape-duping was only the beginning in which Samara would be unleashed on the world.
There you have it. Take this with you next time you watch the movie, ;). This also does not contradict the inferior sequel's continuity of the story either, even though the sequel seems to diminish the importance of the tape curse (unfortunately). The disappointing sequel is a lot less about backstory, unsolved mysteries and family ambiguities and more about the immediate scenario of Aiden's possession by Samara's spirit and it also tries to add conclusion in the form of a hockey hollywoodesque showdown between Rachel and Samara. The only backstory information we get from the sequel is that Samara's real mother is still alive but insane and Samara's spirit has tried many times throughout the years to posses other children, that's really it.