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The Ring

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: The Ring

Starring: Naomi Watts, Brian Cox
Director: Gore Verbinski
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 115 Minutes
Release Date: October 2002
Genres: Horror, Mystery

*Also starring: Lindsay Frost, Chris Cooper

Review by Harvey Karten
3 stars out of 4

I've been telling my fellow onliners for a couple of years now: dump the VCR and get a DVD. There are good ones for under $250 and inexpensive rentals of the discs coupled with the clarity of the picture should ring the death knell for VHS tapes. I now tell the few who are holding out to see "The Ring." "Watch the tape and you die," not "Watch the DVD and you die" (though, to be honest, I'd have to say this could be the tagline of any sequel). Hmmm...come to think of it maybe your safest bet is to scrap your TV and go to the movies every night instead. "The Ring" is one creepy-crawly-scary movie, full of surreal imagery (though it's shown in flashbacks about six times too many), with some powerful acting by Naomi Watts who looked better with shorter hair in "Mulholland Drive" And oh, yes, we're introduced to a young man who could be the next Haley Joel Osment, David Dorfman as the almost equally prescient kid, one who sees not dead people but one particular deceased girl and who can foretell the number of days you have left by looking at your palm.

I haven't seen the Japanese version, "Ringu," from which this was adapted but I trust that the Americans did a better job with a foreign pic than they did with, say, "Point of No Return" and "The Vanishing." The Japanese, who apparently get spirited away by horror as much as they dig anime, went in droves to "Ringu." setting some sort of box office record in East Asia.

What's special about this? For one thing, no octopuses crawl out of people's stomachs and no all-American guys get turned into vampires; though, unfortunately, director Gore Verbinski could not resist turning one head into a skull and another's into the standard-issue chalk-white and by now thoroughly unscary hunk of physiognomy. For another, Hans Zimmer's music is perfect, adding frights to the already hyper proceedings on the screen. The acting is, as mentioned, grade-A, with nobody in the cast winking at the audience as though to announce that we're back in camp.

The eponymous ring is a visual that opens a video record with Dali-esque imagery that could find a home in New York's Guggenheim or Museum of Modern Art. While we find out toward the end what the ring symbolizes, it looks to us like the final stage of a total eclipse of the sun and is followed by seemingly disjointed shots of a ladder, an oval mirror featuring a woman who moves and disappears, and a lighthouse. Early on four teens watch a tape at a motel cabin in the state of Washington. All die, which prompts Seattle journalist Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts), who is related to one of the deceased, to look into the matter. She finds a tape, watches it, the phone rings, and a disembodied female voice says "7 days." The inevitable movie titles progress, Day 1, Day 2, etc., and as the week goes on Rachel brings in her ex-boyfriend Noah (Martin Henderson) for his advice. He watches, then Rachel's son Aidan (David Dorfman) partakes of the entertainment, and of the three Aidan is the most into the action because he like Haley Joel Osment is connected to the dead, in this case a girl named Samara (Daveigh Chase). Since you can die only once, Rachel watches the tape again, using it to travel to the scenes depicted therein.

Coincidences and outlandish developments occur, but remember we're in the world of the supernatural in which anything can happen and always does. For example, who belongs to the voice on the phone and how does said voice know that the owner of the instrument has just watched the tape, and how did the caller get the number? Suffice it to say that in the land of Rosemary's Baby, a diabolical kid seeking revenge finds this child's play,

While the film has more endings than Beethoven's Fifth, "The Ring" catches the brass one, its inhabitants going through a merry-go-round of investigative reporting to try to save their own skins and to get to the bottom of this mystery. Horror expert Maitland McDonagh stated in a recent Sunday New York Times article that maybe ten percent of the genre are good. "The Ring" qualifies for its visuals, its convincing performances, and its ability to deliver the only quality that horror films absolutely must, the scares.

Copyright 2002 Harvey Karten

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