A remake of Hideo Nakata’s 1998 masterful horror film, "The Ring" is a suspenseful, frightening look into the potential psychosomatic abilities of the dead. It takes a step beyond “The Sixth Sense”, albeit its plotting pales in comparison, and wonders aloud if those that are dead can have the nasty ability to work devilish acts on the living. It’s creepy to the maximum, right up to the finish, and if you sleep well the night you watch this flick, I’ll be impressed.
The story surrounds the existence of a mysterious videotape; after watching its disturbing images you receive a phone call from a woman who states simply, “seven days”… and after that amount of time, you die. Simple, fiendish and mired sufficiently in the mundane to make anyone think twice before popping in another videotape, “The Ring” then unfurls into a race against time as journalist Rachel Keller, in an attempt to discover what killed her niece (who dies gruesomely at the top of the film), watches the tape and then tries to unravel its mysteries before she too dies.
The film is shot murkily, and the plot twists and bends more than the trunk of a sadistic-looking tree. Thank goodness for Naomi Watts, whose pretty looks and pained, well-intentioned demeanor in the role of Rachel provides just the right amount of counterbalance to the darkness here. Her work in “Mulholland Drive” seems to have prepped her for this role, which potentially could be the true breakout of her career. She is serious and smart in her portrayal, and she is captivating in both her grim determination to root out the mystery and her selflessness as she provides a future for her only son (played by David Dorfman) in case her seven days run out before she can discover the secrets behind the tape.
But it’s Verbinski’s and photographer Bojan Bazelli’s ability to infuse every shot with enough dark crannies, both physical and emotional, that is the true power behind “The Ring”. Even when the material is incomplete or the pacing lags, these guys uphold the smothering, inescapable, relentless tension in the film. This makes the two hours feel as if they pass in one long breath, while we squirm uncomfortably, tight in the grip of their visual acuity. Throughout the film I didn’t know what to expect, and as events unfurled, they left me with an acrid taste in my mouth; a short, incredible sequence with a horse on an island ferry still sticks with me.
This type of tense, terrific filmmaking is pretty rare. If you’re up for some suspense, get to “The Ring”. If you’re the kind of person who goes to horror films only when coaxed, because you’re not a fan of the sensation of true fright… well, go ahead anyway. I dare you.