Monday, October 12, 2009

31 days of Halloween: The Ring

Copyright Dreamwork Pictures
I'd like to revisit an old review I did back in 2007. The Ring stars Naomi Watts, Martin Henderson, and Brian Cox and was directed by Gore Verbinski, the man behind the camera for the Pirates of the Caribbean films.

Back then, as with when it was originally release, and even now, I believe in my heart that the movie is the best horror film of this decade (The Decent is close, but no cigar). The film is atmospheric, the cinematography and direction are top notch. The acting is superb, particuarly from Naomi Watts is unlike most films in the genre.

The story follows journalist Rachel Keller (Watts), who is investigating the mysterious death of her niece (Amber Tamblyn). Uncovering something greater than just a teen's 'heart attack' (which should be obvious based on the imagery of the dead body, that this was no 'heart attack'). Three friends of hers who went to a cabin in the woods all died the same way. Realizing that no one appears to be interested in this angle, and spurring on her journalistic tendencies, she embarks on a journey to uncover exactly what killed her niece and her friends. A rumor spreading around the teens is that they watched a mysterious cursed video, and died exactly seven days later.

Rachel discovers an unmarked video at the cabin her niece stayed at, she watches, and after a terrifying phone call Rachel is convinced that she too only has 7 days to live. She is only spurred on further to figuring a way to break the curse after her son, Aiden watches it. With her friend Noah (Martin Henderson), she begins to dig up the past surrounding the video.

The Ring was both a blessing to modern horror and the very thing that opened the floodgates to some of the modern, bland tripe that has entered the marketplace. The Ring can be blamed for the huge push of bland Asian-horror film remakes which all include revengeful young girl spirits, or pale white dead boys (The Grudge, Dark Water). This film can even be blamed for the terrible follow up, The Ring Two, which was a waste of talent and time (The 15 minute short film sequel, "Rings" is entirely superior to the sequel). The problem with those films is that this one is atmospheric. The others just aren't. Being an effective PG-13 film that didn't *need* the R-rating, the industry mistook it as a sign that watered down films are more profitable, even if the R-rating is integral to the quality of the film.

An unrelated sub-genre of horror, aptly labeled "torture porn" has made headway over the last few years. What it lacks in terror is made up by gratuitous violence - most of the time not scary in the least. In some respects I see it as the "anti-PG13" movement, where there are ardent followers of the genre who enjoy seeing red hot items go into people's eyes, or others being forced to maiming themselves or others. Others appear to accept some of the atrocious things that the bad guys do - up to and including putting someone into the position of say, removing an arm or dying - take your pick - and claiming that they aren't a murderer. And that rapist just gave the girl the option, right?

But I can ignore all that. I can sit back and enjoy The Ring and remember the fond days where people I knew ran from their rooms in sheer terror upon seeing the end of the film.


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