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The Ring
Review written by: Alex Sandell

The Ring, a remake of 1998's spaghetti sauce sounding Japanese flick, Ringu, has just enough artsy-fartsy whistles and bells to make it feel like it's an important cinematic experience, even when it turns out to be about as vacuous as I Still Know What You Did Last Summer.  The movie keeps feeling like it's leading up to something horrifying, unique or, at the very least, comprehensible, but leaves you with nothing but hundreds of ghost story clichés loosely tied up in a disingenuous bow.  At the same time, The Ring does have a fair amount of suspense for a PG-13 rated Cracker Jack thriller, even if the prize at the bottom of the box turns out to be nothing more than a cardboard compass with no real direction or reason for being.

In The Ring, Naomi Watts, who gave the performance of 2001 in last year's, Mulholland Dr., plays something of a generic single mother to a little boy who sees dead people.  Watts, playing Rachel Keller, handles her monochrome dialogue with a zest that almost makes it feel like she's saying something important, and it is her ability to dish shit as though it were Shakespeare, that ends up saving the movie.  Well, that and a grainy little black and white video that causes the viewer to die within seven days of watching it (this better not be a true story, damn it). 

Rachel Keller discovers that 4 teenagers died simultaneously one week after watching a spine-chilling VHS tape that they found in a cabin they had rented.  Rachel, cooking up a story for the newspaper she works at, decides to rent the cabin herself and take a look at the cassette.  The clips are genuinely unsettling, not only for Rachel, but for the audience watching along with her.  For a few glorious minutes, I thought The Ring may turn out to be that rarest of horror films; one that actually scares.  Unfortunately, nothing else in the movie matches the morbid intensity of the video footage, and the video footage's impact is all but lost when it is overused throughout the picture. 

It becomes painfully obvious that the film's director, Gore Verbinski, skipped his "Less is More" course in film school, when he starts using the tape's gritty footage to the point where it appears that he's making a horror movie that even Alzheimer's patients can enjoy.  The guy starts showing us things that we literally saw a few minutes before.  When we see a ladder placed in the real world that Rachel saw previously in the video, we can rest assured that Verbinski will give us a quick flashback to the video version, just in case we didn't catch it the first time.   When we see a drowned horse that was clearly visible on the tape, appear in a newspaper clip, we can be confident that Verbinski will go ahead and show us the tape's footage again, in case we were out in the lobby refilling our Dr. Pepper, or buying a box of Dots, the first couple of times he ran it past us.  By the halfway point you desperately want to scream, "we get it, already!"  By the time the movie's over the cassette's choppy footage that initially gave you shivers seems about as creepy as a Nine Inch Nails video. 

It's unfortunate that Verbinski isn't as determined to explain past events in the film as he is to show us another flickering shot of them, in their full choppy glory.  The movie leaves you with almost as many unanswered questions as the K-12 system did on graduation day.  Sometimes a director deliberately leaves his film ambiguous and open for audience interpretation.  Other times the director simply didn't know how to end the damn thing, slapped on a finale, and hoped the audience wouldn't notice.  The Ring is somewhere in the middle.  As indicated, I was disappointed with how many questions in the film remained unanswered.  Yet, I'm satisfied in knowing that the film involved me to the point where I wanted answers to the questions it left me with. 

Luckily, those questions may be answered, if The Japanese version of The Ring, which spawned both a sequel and a prequel, is any indication.  Hopefully American versions of Ringu 2 and Ringu 0 are already in the pre-production stages (and hopefully the American prequel won't suck as much as the Japanese one did).  As a trilogy, The Ring's loose ends could be tied and the three films could become one complete story. 

As a standalone movie, The Ring is worth a look, if you don't demand anything more than a few cheap thrills from your Halloween entertainment.  Rather than art, it's junk posing as art, but at least it made the effort to strike a pose, which is more than you can say for most of the trash out there.  More importantly, if you make it through the frequent false leads, piles of plot holes, and oodles of loose ends, you'll be rewarded with a scene featuring the gorgeous Naomi Watts wearing a tight wet shirt, which almost makes you forget about all of the film's flaws and root for The Ring to win Best Picture of 2002 . . . almost.

On a scale of 1-10?


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Text ©(Copyright) 2002 Alex Sandell [All Rights Reserved].

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