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The Ring | Review

No chills just spills

It won’t kill you if you watch it but…

When a film like The Blair Witch Project comes to mind, I think about two things, the genius internet marketing behind the feature and the actual enjoyment the audience had during its premiere. This pleasure was sparked by a simple formula- give the audience a little of the supernatural, a little logic and tease them by letting them gain access into some narrative information which the protagonists don’t have while at the same time keeping the viewer quite literally, in the dark. Gore Verbinski’s ‘The Ring’ is nothing of that. Beginning with a vaguely familiar introductory mode of a Scream like narrative setup – a couple of teenagers babble about with their breaks in flow of conversation coming from annoyingly loud telephone rings and the fright from some urban legends. Not surprisingly, Scream 3 screenwriter Ehren Kruger is the man who was chosen for the job of scripting an American remake version of the 1998 Hideo Nakata directed Japanese horror film of the same name. The teens are concerned about this VHS tape-and so are we!,-because the film graciously gives the viewer a complete screening of our own. The mysterious footage found on the video cassette resembles a bootlegged arty student film or Nine Inch Nails music video but the most eerie aspect of it all is the disturbing follow-up phone calls and a series of deaths that accompany the recording. An accident too close to home sends an investigative journalist on a malicious voyage to unlock the mystery behind what these unlucky viewers saw. In order to find the cure,- one must drink from the poison and so the horrifying adventure begins.

Naomi Watts- who delivered a break-through performance in David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive is pretty much asked to deliver the same type of confused look for this role. Apparently, the film also calls for another kid from the Sixth Sense performance with David Dorfman (Bounce) who’s jarringly overdone ultra crispy cold facial expressions are a little too overly done. Mother (also known by the name of Rachel by her 7 year-old son) and son (also known as the kid that sees dead people) go about their Poltergeist and The Mothman Prophecies ways-one brings out the crayons and draws circles while providing brief horrifying details while the bigger person runs to the editing suites for some how to pop a video in a VCR 101 course. The subplot brings on some useless characters and an even more intrigue-less and bizarre storyline.

The complications found in this film begin with the tensionless first half and a lackluster subplot-midpoint that make the final log into a dreadful long haul. The mystery behind the tape sends the narrative into a big push but it seems that the film protagonist is only vaguely aware of what happen to her- for Christ’s-sake you watched the tape and those who watched it before are dead! The supernatural horror film only begins to take form once all the nose-bleeds, the bruise marks and out of focus self-portraits finally get to her. Verbinski whose previous two films include The Mexican (2001) and Mouse Hunt (1997) has trouble grasping the idea of making a film of this mixed genre-where are the out of the seat moments? And whatever happened to making the viewer into an active participant rather than spoon-fed passive watcher of a bunch of quick flashes of torrid images that explain very little about the logic or the supernatural cause in the scenario.

The Ring feels like a flat can of a day-old can of cola, it never sets itself into an authentic horror tone that would normally grip a viewer- it suspends all logic and fails to lure us in- not even the open-ended finale would encourage me to see a minute more of this film. The real “conundrum” is should I examine the stylistic differences between the original and the remake or for that matter with such a bad taste in my mouth should I even bother checking out the original which as spawned two sequels?

Rating 1 stars

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Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist, and critic at IONCINEMA.com, established in 2000. A regular at Sundance, Cannes, and Venice, Eric holds a BFA in film studies from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013, he served on the narrative competition jury at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson’s "This Teacher" (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022, he was a New Flesh Juror for Best First Feature at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Current top films for 2023 include The Zone of Interest (Glazer), Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (Pham Thien An), Totem (Lila Avilés), La Chimera (Alice Rohrwacher), All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (Raven Jackson).

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