Monday, May 13, 2013

REVIEW: The Ring (2002)

Oh no! I watched The Ring and now I only have seven days to do this review!

Director: Gore Verbinski
Starring: Naomi Watts, Martin Henderson

Yup, that's just how it works now. Seeing the movie The Ring is pretty much the same as seeing the fictional video tape featured in the movie. Seeing as I usually do reviews in less than seven days, I guess that won’t be a problem though…

For those not “in the know,” The Ring is pretty much the forerunner to most modern horror movies anywhere. It’s the prototype for all the modern supernatural ghost stories we have, long-haired little girl ghosts with demonic faces and all. But unlike The Grudge, which is unequivocally horrendous, The Ring at least does try to have some good stuff in it. But is it enough for me not to review it? I don’t think so!

The movie kicks off with two girls talking about the evils of television, and how it kills your brain. Assuming that extends to movies as well, I really don’t think it’s that great of an idea to kick off a movie with the reasons why you should turn it off.

"Like, the corporations are out to get us, man."

They play pranks on each other and stuff, lots of red herrings, and talk about boys and evil video tapes that kill you. Apparently one of the two girls has just come back from a weekend vacation where she and her friends watched this tape that is rumored to kill people a week after they see it. Insert your own ‘The Ring 2’ joke here, or any bad movie for that matter. I’m just wondering what kind of movie studio would be so desperate as to use a marketing ploy like this. I mean, a movie that makes people die a week after they see it? That’s pretty hardcore. I’m sure they would find a great audience among the kinds of incessant whackjobs who watch crap like A Serbian Film, however. Or, if they were really desperate…

Oh, okay, I know Lion’s Gate wouldn’t go that far. They did release the SAW sequels, but I’m fairly sure their desire to bring in a profit would stop them from a stunt like this. But I digress. Just when you think nothing is going to happen and the movie will be nothing but boring teenage banter…

Yup, looks like she tried to French kiss a vacuum cleaner. Wonderful. We then switch over to our next main character Rachel, played by Naomi Watts. Her problem is, her son keeps drawing freaky pictures in class instead of letting the United States Education System pound its historically and politically biased dogma into his brain. And that just won’t do!

So apparently, this kid thinks his dead cousin magically turned into a giant when she died. Or maybe he just thinks she was always that size...stupid kid.

I love when the teacher tells Rachel that her son clearly has problems and she just sort of waves it off. She says her son has been missing his cousin who died three days ago, and this is how he’s dealing with it. Because drawing pictures of dead people in class? TOTALLY DEALING WITH IT! At the end of the conversation, the teacher says Watts’ son actually drew the pictures a week ago, even though his cousin died three days ago. Creepy! Cue the “dun dun dun” music. Personally, I think the teacher should be more worried about Rachel's psychotic lesbian tendencies...

If you get the reference, I'll give you a cookie.

In the car, Rachel’s son Aidan says that the cousin – the girl from the opening – told him she was going to die, before the fact. Well if that’s the case, then why the hell was she acting so carefree and normal in the first scene, on the night she died? Did she just forget? Or was she just trying to scare her cousin? Personally, I really wonder what that mental thought process was like. What could she have been thinking?

“Oh shit! I’m gonna die in seven days because I watched a videotape! Hey, cousin, come here…listen, I’m going to be dead soon! I’m not explaining anything else because that would be antithetical to my goal of being as vague and ominous as possible and scaring a little boy who loves me! Hey, best friend, want to go party, talk about boys and joke around? Yeah? Cool. Okay, time to die now!”

Man I hate teenagers…

After that, the funeral happens, where Rachel talks to some teenagers and figures out that the other kids who watched the tape are also dying. So she does some poking around and goes to the cabin where they stayed, and finds the video tape almost immediately. Gee, that’s so implausible I can almost feel it in my teeth. What, she knew it was the right tape because it was the only blank one on the shelf? What if it had just been some homemade porn tape the guy at the counter made? Well either way it’s irrelevant, because by the laws of bad movies, it does turn out to be the correct tape. She watches it and…

So the ladder must represent man's eternal folly of making weak-ass, half-thought supernatural thrillers.

…wow, this is the worst Ingmar Bergman movie I’ve ever seen!

And then, you all know what happens next: she gets the phone call that starts it all, with a whisper that says she only has seven days to live. I personally feel sorry for whoever it is making those calls. It must get boring just having to call people over and over saying the same things…like the worst call center job in the world. But Rachel doesn’t have any sympathy as her countdown immediately begins!

Yeah, the funniest thing about this is that – spoiler alert! – most of their days are completely wasted. They barely even do anything until the very last two days! What an incompetent bunch of morons. But far be it from me to skip over large portions of this movie; no, no…I’ll go through all of it. First we see that apparently, a side effect of the killer video is that it makes pictures of peoples’ faces look kind of blurry and weird:

Man, Instagram wasn't so good in its early days...

Yeah, that’s right – this is a real side effect of the killer videotape. What do you think Satan was thinking when he conjured up that one? “This videotape, the spawn of all evil, will kill anyone who watches it in seven days…oh, and also it will make pictures come out kind of bad…it’s not a lame side effect! It’s, uhhh, just to screw over anyone who wanted to take pictures during their last seven days for their loved ones to remember them by! Bwuhahaha!”

Somehow I don’t think those two punishments quite even out.

Oh, and there's also Noah, Rachel’s old boyfriend, who is probably the coolest character in the movie, for now anyway. He at least knows what he’s doing, which is better than most of these movies ever get. He says he wants to watch the video, and at first, Rachel says no…but after the tiniest bit of prodding, she thinks it’s cool to show a person the videotape that KILLS YOU after you watch it. What a bitch.

He doesn’t think much of it either, and the two spend a lot of time trying to figure out what’s up with that freak-ay tape. To be fair, these scenes aren’t too bad, so I won’t really fault them that much. I will, however, fault a lot of the characters for the next few scenes…Rachel wakes up one morning to find that Aidan has watched the tape! Oh no! Maybe she shouldn’t have kept it in a place where her young son could easily get to it and put it into the VCR? Somebody call Child Protection Services on this broad.

"I really am the worst mother of the year! Oh well. At least he hasn't touched the bottle of Jack I keep on the kitchen table while I'm sleeping, or the gun I put under his bed for safekeeping..."

Then we get the big reveal that Noah is actually Aidan’s father. In the car while waiting for Rachel, Noah says he wouldn’t be good father material and so doesn’t come around that much. Great. Because of your insecurities, a little boy grows up without a father. You despicable piece of scum. How about next time actually taking responsibility for your actions, buddy? You asshole. It’s a shame because this guy was actually fairly likable for the genre’s standards, but after this? I just think he’s a pussy. Oh well.

I also love how one of the days this movie chronicles takes up more time with Rachel and Noah arguing in the hallway of his apartment building than it does them actually trying to accomplish shit. Do I even have to say why this is stupid? Oh no, guys, by all means. Continue your argument. It’s not like you have a kid together who’s dying or anything! Romantic banter is always equally important to life-threatening paranormal doom, right? Even Bonnie and Clyde would say these two are being ridiculous.

Somewhere along their research, Rachel finds out that the woman in the tape in one scene is actually Anna Morgan, a resident of some island with a lighthouse that is also featured in the tape. Apparently a long time ago, the horses on the island went insane after Anna Morgan brought home a foster daughter, Samara – who is the girl in the tape, if you’re the two or three people who don’t know that by now. So Rachel goes on a boat, finds a horse, and this happens:


Yeah. You just saw that. A goddamned horse went ballistic and threw itself over the side of a boat in this horror movie. Tell me which Grudge sequel has anything that ridiculously cool, and…well, I still won’t watch it, but you see my point!

She gets to the island and meets Brian Cox, who plays Richard Morgan, the lone standing survivor of the Morgan family. He’s a depressed old man who is about as sad about his horses dying as he is his family dying. After some more poking around and researching, they figure out that Samara was locked in an attic for years because Richard blamed her for Anna’s death and insanity. Somehow while locked in the attic, she gained supernatural powers and made a video tape that kills people in seven days after viewing.

Uh, okay. I rarely ever do this. But we need a break for a moment, while I try to process exactly what this complete gibberish insanity is trying to convey here.

…I’m sorry, but I really don’t see the connection there! Even if you’re trying to say she already had the powers before Anna adopted her, it still doesn’t make sense! So she had the supernatural power of making evil videotapes? How does she make the phone calls happen every time? What happens if somebody watches the tape and they don’t have a phone? Movie, I know you’re based off a Japanese film, which basically means you can do away with making any kind of sense, but come on! A little bit of effort would be nice!

Then they go to the cabin again and tear up the floors. The TV falls down the hole and knocks Rachel clean into the open well conveniently still there – not like they would have demolished that when they built the cabin, right? – and seriously, Rachel is that clumsy? It’s like something out of a Tom and Jerry cartoon.

Personally I think the staticy TV had its best day in Poltergeist, and that came out 20 years before this!

Rachel gets stuck in a well with some dead bodies – always a fun time – and then Samara shows her how her mother put a bag over her head and dropped her in the well to begin with. Because, remember, any good horror movie always has to have a sympathetic killer! We can’t just have an evil, malignant force killing off our main characters! It has to be a sympathetic killer we can feel sorry for and know why they are so evil and bloodthirsty. Truly that is the way of good, scary horror movies. Doesn’t dilute the fear and terror at all. What’s really scary is backstories! And remember, for even more of an effect, go the Rob Zombie route and devote half of the goddamn movie to the killer’s backstory. The Ring doesn’t do that, but that’s only because it simply laid the building blocks for modern horror. It would be a few years before the formula was perfected.

But I digress…they get out, and go back home to find Aidan sprawled unconscious on the floor. Because any good parent leaves her child alone and unsupervised when they may not ever come back alive, right?

The floor is his babysitter now. The rug, his comfort. You are dead to him, parents...dead.

…no, I’m done being sarcastic. Will somebody just kill these parents already?! It’s bad enough that the father is a worthless dick-cheese who won’t help raise his son out of his own sense of insecurity, and now we have a mother that forgets to call a babysitter when she goes out on the off chance that she might DIE IN A WELL IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE. Please, just send these two to the electric chair.

But fortunately we don’t have to, as in the next scene, Noah gets killed when this happens:

Talk about interactive TV! I wish my TV could do that. Maybe in the future we’ll finally be able to get Scarlett Johansson or Megan Fox out of the screen and into our living rooms.

I’d also like to take a moment to, erm, “thank” this movie for pioneering one of horror’s biggest reference points after it was released – the creepy, zombie-ghost girl with long hair covering an evil looking dead face. This image has been done time and time again in numerous god-awful films such as The Grudge, One Missed Call and Shutter, among hundreds of others. I dunno, is this really what the Japanese find scary? Demonic little girls with too much white-face on? I guess I just don’t get it. But safe to say, even if it was a scary idea, it has been run into the ground SO DAMN MUCH that it would be ineffective either way. So thank you, The Ring…thank you so much.

I love the way Rachel actually doesn’t know what’s gonna happen when she turns Noah’s chair around…lady, haven’t you ever seen a horror movie? If you go into a room and someone is sitting there, not responding, with their back turned, do you think they’re just playing a joke? Oh, how innocent and free it must have been to live in a world where horror movie clich├ęs are only a little bit dated, as opposed to 11 years later, when they’re just run into the ground.

"Maybe he really IS just sleeping! That must be why his chair is suspiciously and conveniently turned around like that, so I won't see his face yet..." Also, the guy's current girlfriend is shown going up the stairs after Rachel leaves. Rachel does not do anything to stop her or even lessen the blow of what the girl is about to see. Our hero, folks.

Anyway, she goes home, tries to destroy the tape, only to discover that they have to pass on the tape to someone else in order to get rid of the whole curse thing. There are some ominous cuts from the video aaaaaand…that’s pretty much how it ends. I wouldn’t even call it an end…more of a cliffhanger, really.

Well, I can’t say this is a terrible film, it’s got a few good moments here and there, and some nice atmosphere. But too much of it just falls into that annoying modern horror stereotype – it invented a good many of the stereotypes we see today, but then, I wish they were done better. It’s weird because these elements – the ghosts, the supernatural storylines, the backstories – could potentially be melded into something good. It’s not like these things are bad simply by their natures, so why can’t anyone string together a good film from them?

Oh, and I forgot, I’m gonna die in seven days because I watched the movie! Oh well. I’ll just keep pondering these questions and mix it up by flirting with people. No big deal.

The images in this review are not mine; they are copyright of their original owners.