Ring, The [Blu-ray]
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Ring, The (BD)
The Ring is the critically acclaimed, smash hit thriller David Ansen of Newsweek says "raises some serious goosebumps!" This cinemat ic thrill r ide will keep you on the edge of your seat from the stunning opening to the astonishing conclusion! It begins as just ano ther urban legend - th e whispered tale of a nightmarish videotape that causes anyone who watch es it to die seven days later. But whe n four teenagers all meet with my sterious deaths exactly one week after watching just such a tape, invest igative reporter Rachel Kel ler (Naomi Watts) tracks down the video...an d watches it. Now, the legend is coming true, the clock is ticking and R achel has just s even days to unravel the mystery of The Ring.]]>
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As the movie, set in the Seattle area, begins we see two teenage girls alone in a large house, and soon their conversation turns to the stuff urban legends are made of, specifically in terms of the existence of a video tape that, when watched, will result in a creepy phone call stating the viewer has seven days to live. As it turns out, one of the girls just happened to have watch said tape a week ago and, well, I won't describe anymore but I will say some seriously bad mojo soon ensues as the girl who watched the tape has her chips prematurely cashed in while her friend suffers a complete mental collapse resulting her being institutionalized. So how does Naomi Watts, who plays the character Rachel Keller, fit into it all? Well, she just happens to be the aunt of the dead girl, along with also being an investigative reporter and a single mother of a creepy little kid named Aidan (Dorfman). Realizing there may be a story here, especially after learning a few of her niece's friends died mysterious the same time as the girl (they all watched the tape at the same time), Rachel begins digging, eventually coming across the tape (and watching it), and soon begins to fear for her own life, with good reason. Hoping to learn more about the images on the video, she contacts an acquaintance named Noah (Henderson), who specializes in graphic mediums, and shows him the tape (apparently it wasn't enough that she alone be cursed). Noah's skeptical, believing it's some sort of crummy, student film but soon changes his tune as the strange vibes Rachel has been experiencing since watching the tape begin to invade his reality. Rachel's research eventually leads her and Noah upstate to a dilapidated horse farm (that has no horses), run by a man named Richard Morgan (Cox), whose wife and daughter, both featured prominently on the tape, have since died under mysterious circumstances (seems the wife was a bit nutty, while the daughter was, well...). Anyway, Rachel and Noah make some important revelations, ones that may help remove the `curse', that is if they don't run out of time (seven days goes by quickly when you've got the monkey of death on your back).
I avoided seeing this when it originally came out, as there was so much buzz flying about, and for some reason I thought the film would be swathed in pretension. I finally did watch it about a year and a half ago, and then again last night, and after doing so, I was very impressed. I definitely believe this is a film in need of multiple viewings, at least for me, as the first time I saw it my focus was primarily on the ookie visuals, so much so I missed bits and pieces of the story. Subsequently, by the end of the first go around, I wasn't entirely sure what the hell was going on, specifically in terms of the ending. Now, in watching again last night, I tended to focus more on the story, picking up those minor, but important, elements I missed the first time around, and things made a whole lot more sense...not that I didn't feel there wasn't a plot hole or two, but nothing large enough to drive a bus through. The story has an ever present sense of doom and gloom, partly due to the Seattle setting (Seattle is notorious for its wet weather), but also because of the material itself as I never really got the impression that even if Rachel could solve the mystery, she'd rid herself of the curse. Also it should be known that none of the characters are particularly pleasant as Rachel, a single, working mother, at least initially, seemed more focused on her career than her son, and Noah, whose role I purposely left ambiguous, came off as a complete a-hole (check out the scene with Noah and Aidan in the car and you'll see what I mean). Even the kid Aidan came off all creepy and such, especially when referring to his mother by her name rather than calling her `mom'. Despite my being put off by these characters none really seemed deserving of the fate they were destined for, so I did find myself interested in their relative well being (Rachel's attitudes change slightly as the story moves along, but I'm still unsure if it was due to a mother's love or her own sense of self preservation), except for maybe Noah. While I may not have liked the characters all that much, I thought the performances were well done, and the direction taut and engaging. The pacing was solid and even, as the story never really got tiresome or boring. I did like the twists at the end, one of which involved Noah and provided for one of the more memorable and disturbing visuals in the film. All in all I thought this a very well made, nightmarish affair, one worth watching at least twice of only to pick up on that which may have been missed the first time around. As far as those who've seen the film, was I the only one who found that fingernail bit within the cursed video extremely uncomfortable to watch? That's a pain that will linger...
The picture, presented in widescreen anamorphic (1.85:1), comes across very well, and the audio, available in DTS 5.1 Surround (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English and French), and Dolby Surround 2.0 (English), is strong and clear. Extras, which aren't much, include subtitles in English, Spanish, and French, a short film by Gore Verbinski, one that apparently utilizes footage shot but not used in the final release of the film, and trailers for Ringu (1998), Catch Me If You Can (2002), and 8 Mile (2002). Also included, as a slightly hidden feature, is a complete showing of the material present on the `cursed' tape, which last roughly two minutes, if you dare...
By the way, in case you're interested, a sequel entitled The Ring Two (2005) was released, directed by Hideo Nakata, who directed the original Ringu (1998), and there's talks of a third film, titled aptly enough The Ring 3, possibly to be released in 2008.
The DVD has zero special features, however, so the Blu-ray is the better option.
And sadly, most current "horror" movies lack horror, because it's easier to substitute it with screaming blondes, blood, guts and sharp objects. But "The Ring" is soaked in foreboding, creepiness and horrific imagery. Director Gore Verbinski relies heavily on the original Japanese movie for a lot of his remake's flavor, and the result is a slow-building terror that keeps twisting right up to the end.
Single mum Rachel (Naomi Watts) is attending her niece's funeral, after she died under bizarre circumstances. Several of her friends died on the exact same day, at the same time, which (surprise surprise) makes Rachel think this isn't a coincidence. So she investigates the mountain cabin all the kids stayed at a week ago, and finds an unlabeled videotape with a series of bizarre images -- and a curse that will kill you one week afterwards.
She enlists the help of her ex-boyfriend Noah (Martin Henderson) to help her unravel and break the curse. The secret of the tape is wrapped up in a young girl, Samara, who vanished from her adoptive parents' horse farm years ago. Somehow Samara's evil rage has lived in on her curse, and it will destroy Rachel, Noah and their son unless Rachel can find a way to escape it.
Remaking Asian horror movies is one of those movie trends that is hanging on in Hollywood, with everything from "The Grudge" to "The Eye" to "Bangkok Dangerous" getting the A-list Hollywood treatment. Some are good, some are mediocre, most are wretched. But "The Ring" was the first of these, adapted from Hideo Nakata's adaptation of Koji Suzuki's novel (cue cries of "but the original was better). And it achieves the distinction of being almost as atmospheric and haunting as the original.
Most of its brilliance comes from director Gore Verbinski, who thankfully did not simply use the name and concept, and invent a teenybopper plot around that. This is actually rather similar to Nakata's adaptation -- Verbinski alters some few things from the original film, but keeps the same dark, murky atmosphere and many of the same scenes. Even the cinematography has a dark, overcast look, filled with forbidding symbolism -- lots of grey skies and overflowing water. It's as if Samara's influence is permeating everything.
And what about the horror? It comes from the building tension as Rachel's deadline creeps toward us, and brief flashes of Samara's influence -- for example, that poor horse going berserk on a ferry, or the blurred-out faces of the doomed. The entire movie is infused with the feeling that something invisible and ghastly is just waiting to attack you, and it's just waiting for the right moment.
The keystone of this movie is Naomi Watts. This talented actress is virtually perfect as the perpetually worried, perplexed Rachel; as the deadline approaches, her fear and grief are almost palpably overwhelming. Henderson is also good, whether as a flip carefree artist or as a caring ex-boyfriend. Dorfman is the one disappointment -- he seems less like a little boy than a pompous oracle, and he's almost creepier than Samara.
Which is saying something, because Daveigh Chase is utterly chilling as Samara Morgan, a creepy little devil-child with black weedy hair over her face, a white nightgown and "Omen" eyes. In keeping with the watery theme of the movie, she always seems vaguely damp.
"The Ring" is one of those rarest kinds of movies -- a remake with its own flavour, even as it sticks to the original story. Excellent direction, great acting, and the haunting determination to never, ever watch an unlabeled movie again.