Movie review : The Ring

The movie opens in your typical horror-movie fashion with two girls sitting on a bed, one telling the other an urban legend about a video tape that, if you watch it, you will die 7 days later. I suppose this was a way of getting the viewer ready to settle in for the standard horror ride, but before long I realized that the movie was merely poking fun of all those typical movies. The plot of The Ring is far from a simple urban legend thought up by teenagers. In fact, this is one of those few movies where the story itself can hold it’s own without the typical horror movie effects and gore. The story in The Ring is delightfully well thought out and, if I were to tell just the story behind the movie to everyone around a campfire, you’d swear it was the scariest story you’d ever heard.

I must admit that even though I’ve seen thousands of horror movies, this movie scared the bejesus out of me. I haven’t been that scared by a movie since The Blair Witch Project and The Exorcist before that. And, in a way, The Ring is a mix between the two. It contains all the scary psychological suspense of the Blair Witch, except it also contains some really fucked up Exorcist-like scary shit that The Blair Witch promised but, artfully, didn’t deliver.

With that in mind, this movie did not rely heavily on special effects and makeup. Those were few and far between. Like that Nicole Kidman masterpiece, The Others, that I love so much, The Ring uses good writing, lighting, camera angles and thick suspense to take you to a place in your mind just outside the scariest thing you could imagine and keeps you there through most of the movie. When there are special effects and makeup they’re believable and not over done.

The Ring is unique in that it lets your understanding of the story, and what you’ve figured out about the mystery, contribute to the state of fear. Where other movies might show you something awful and then have to explain it to you later, The Ring asks you to imagine something awful and then shows you just enough to confirm what you had been dreading. I don’t mean to say that it’s predictable, because it isn’t. The movie says, “OK, you figured part of it out, but now come over here and let me just show you a little something…”

To be fair, The Ring does contain some of the jump-out-at-you tactics we’re accustomed to that keep us jittery even though nothing is really going on, but here, it’s done in a different way. It doesn’t serve as a gimmick to make the movie scarrier (it’s certainly not necessary); it’s done to keep the rhythm of the movie and keep you at an elevated level of nervousness. Where most horrors let you relax then elevate your senses a bit and then scare you, this movie keeps you elevated in a near-horrified state throughout the movie and then occasionally lifts you to a much higher point that made even this horror-fan want to just give in, put down my popcorn and go back to the car.

One of the great things about seeing a movie like this early in it’s release is experiencing it with the early-release audience. You know how you can hear the audience releasing tension during the movie? Someone will scream out loud and people will laugh at them. Or someone will giggle nervously after having jumped in their seat? There was none of that during this movie. Everyone just sat there in perfect silence with their arms crossed tightly in front of them. When the credits rolled you could hear people take a breath as if it was their first in quite a while.

So, what is The Ring? I won’t tell you, but it could’ve been named after the stain I left on the seat when I got up to leave. Go see it before someone tells you too much.

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