Halloween Endurance Test: the Ring (2002)
The Ring might be one of the only horror films effective at being creepy while also being PG-13. Not through the Reaganomics-esque claim that “what you don’t see is scarier than what you do,” but through its general ambiance. Dreary and grey, fitting right into its Washington locale.
(This is not to say that Seattle is as dreary as is normally claimed. I’ve been there on vacation, and it didn’t rain nearly as much as I expected, or numerous Frasier reruns led me to believe. It did, however, have a used bookstore that sold shirts praising the rats that brought the bubonic plague, so I guess not everything is peachy there.)
Also of note is how this film works best during a rainy day. While most horror movies are only effective when watched at night, this one works best when its overcast. (Really, who would watch a horror movie during the day? Besides the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which, as it’s set during daytime, is always effective.)
Based off a Japanese film (Ringu), the Ring was one of the glut of adapted Asian horror films flooding the States in the early aughts. Naomi Watts plays Rachel, an investigative reporter who’s trying to unravel the mystery behind her nieces’s death.
The death centers around a seemingly abstract video that leaves its viewer with seven days to live. Naturally, Rachel watches the tape and is cursed. She then takes the tape with her, and has all her friends watch it! (A bit of unethical business that would be brilliantly played up in the sequel.) To no one surprise, her son watches the tape too; leaving her just 48 hours to solve the mystery before she dies.
(One thing the film doesn’t do is reverse the curse of children in horror movies. If there’s a kid in your horror flick, you’re guaranteed a PG-13 rating (CHECK!) and that false suspense of will the child die? False because everyone knows he won’t.)
Luckily Rachel’s ex, who’s also her son’s father, is aN A/V expert who’s also cursed. They break the film down shot by shot, discover a diseased horse farm that’s somehow a piece of the puzzle, and break into the records of a mental health facility.
How the city of Seattle ever gave this movie permission to film there is yet another mystery. I can’t imagine any of this would be viewed favorably by the Board of Tourism.
I won’t give away how they stop the curse, as, without gore, that secret is this film’s only asset. I will warn you that you’ll probably fall asleep mid-film. It starts with a bang, dispenses some curses, and then, during the investigation phase, it will bore you to tears.
This may not be its fault though, as the investigation doesn’t really pick up steam until the fifth day; by which point you’re already used to the days moving by fast. So the slow down as Rachel interviews the populace of Horse Farm Island, and her baby daddy undergoes a pointless quest to the aforementioned psych ward, does come as a shock.
The payoff of finding out just what the Ring actually refers to is totally worth it though.