Although we are well into the so-called Christmas season, when last I asked for movie suggestions it was around Halloween. Hence somebody asked for a review of The Ring (2002). I hate this movie, and thought I had left it safely behind when I first saw it in the movie theaters. On the other hand, I am here to give my fans what they would like to see, at least during the week. I just hope not to offend anyone with this review. And I very well could be wrong with my assessment as they have made two sequels to this film. I do not know who is watching them, but I do recall a certain buzz around this borrow from Japanese cinema. This is what drew me to the theater all those years ago in spite of my usual reservations about horror films, and that was before I was truly practicing my faith. The time between has not changed my opinion.
Alright, here we go. The Ring introduces its ridiculous concept with two high school friends, Katie Embry (Amber Tamblyn) and Becca Kolter (Rachel Bella), discussing their recent lives while home alone. If this sounds familiar, it should because it has by rehashed and spoofed countless times. Becca is needling Katie about some urban legend she heard recently of a video tape that, if watched, you die seven days later. This discussion basically ruins the entire movie for me because, for better or worse, it gets me thinking. Not to get too far ahead, but later on it is suggested that the only place where this VHS recording resides as at this backwoods lodge where technology is seemingly still caught in the 1980s. And yet suburban Seattle teenagers seem to know about it. Katie has seen the death video, and it has been the requisite number of days since that act. The opening sequence ends with her demise. The next people we meet are the Kellers, with son Aidan (David Dorfman) being picked up late after school by mom Rachel (Naomi Watts). Before leaving, Aidan’s teacher discusses some troubling things she has noticed in her student. But like all good mothers do, Rachel chooses to ignore the teacher, writing off Aidan’s sadness as being due to Katie’s death. Katie was Aidan’s babysitter, by the way. Or cousin, maybe? Their relationship was not entirely clear to me. Whatever the case, it earns them an invitation to Katie’s funeral, and because Rachel is a reporter for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer she is asked to investigate Katie’s death. One of the first things she learns while smoking out back with some of Katie’s classmates (some good role modeling there) is about the stupid tape and where the young lady watched it. So what is her first move? Why, to track down the lodge and watch the video, of course. We get to see it in its full length with her, though would that not mean that we die in seven days too? I have a theory that the majority of the so-called scary clips on YouTube are an attempt to emulate the cursed tape from this movie, but I digress. She also watched it a few times more looking for clues that might help her figure out what happened to Katie, but I guess subsequent viewings does not shorten the clock on your impending doom. In order to begin to unravel this mystery, Rachel enlists the help of her former lover and Aidan’s father, Noah Clay (Martin Henderson), a video expert of some kind. This also involves showing him the tape. Compounding the problem, she makes a copy of it. At any rate, their investigation continues and they figure out the principle figures on the tape, the main one being a little girl named Samara Morgan (Daveigh Chase). She had been thrown down a well because her dad, Richard (Brian Cox), thought her evil because of the way the horses on their farm reacted to her by drowning themselves. And somehow aspects of all this, including time that Samara spent in a psychiatric ward, ended up on this tape. Just as they get down to Rachel’s last day, her and Noah discover the well Samara had been dumped in, and where else would it be than under that cabin in the middle of nowhere. By getting to the bottom of it, literally, and finding Samara’s body, she believes she has broken the curse. Yet when she gets home and discusses the situation with Aidan, her son informs her that it is not over because for some reason he has a special relationship with Samara’s ghost, or spirit, or whatever, and knows these things. This point is driven home when we see Noah back in his apartment and Samara climbs out of his television to murder him.
So what saves Rachel and Aidan at the end of The Ring? Because they make copies of the tape. Why does that keep them from suffering a gruesome death? Because the movie says so. Actually, the laughable and flimsy excuse given for why this works is because Samara wants to be shared. Thus duplicating the VHS satisfies some kind of vague desire of the dead. In other words, you must contribute to this cycle of death in order to survive. From a Catholic perspective or not, this is not a good look. God has in fact asked people to die for Him, Jesus being the obvious example. But it is not because he wants to murder or hurt people, as is Samara’s stated purpose. A martyr’s death is meant to illustrate some greater evil going on in society, as with Jesus in taking on the sins of man on the Cross. Now, no human can rightly ask another to die for them, at least not on a personal level. But since this is a movie about a tape that brings about nothing but destruction, why not have your characters take one for the team, destroy the tape, and deal with whatever comes as a result? Or better yet, DON’T WATCH THE TAPE IN THE FIRST PLACE!!!!
I suppose horror aficionados like The Ring, which might explain my distaste for it as I am not one. I have seen enough of them to feel like there is nothing truly special about this iteration. There is the beginning I referenced above, along with its share of jump scares and characters making dumb decisions. You know, standard fare. I cannot emphasize enough the utter folly of consciously choosing to watch something that you have heard has a curse that leads to your death. Doing so can not only bring about a physical death, but the kind of end that leads to being cut off from God eternally, which is a much worse fate. In all, it is best to simply avoid such things. Finally, The Ring is kind of boring. Because of the poor decision to view the tape, along with a few other passing moments, I did not care for Rachel too much as a character. Hence you have to sit through almost two hours of her stumbling around the edges of this mystery. Yawn. Pass.