30 Days Of Halloween: ‘The Ring’ Still Gives Us Nightmares For At Least ‘Seven Days’

“Before you die, you see the ring…”

Asian horror was a BIG deal in the late 90’s and early 00’s, but none of them reached the cultural zeitgeist-y moment that was hit by The Ring. The story that has been recycled from Hideo Nakata’s popular Japanese thriller Ringu , Gore Verbinski’s The Ring opened 17 years ago today.

The story involves a video that brings certain death. You look at it, the phone rings, and you find out you have ‘seven days’ to live. The mysterious death of her niece makes newspaper reporter Rachel Kellar played by Naomi Watts aware of the legend of the videotape. After tracking down and viewing the tape, she soon discovers that she has been cursed by a little girl named Samara to die in seven days. Rachel, along with her ex-boyfriend Noah played by Martin Henderson and her supernaturally tuned-in young son Aidan played by David Dorfman, begin to investigate the legend; with only seven days of Rachel’s life left.

the ring samara GIF

As a remake goes, The Ring really shines bright. The strength of the film is that it carefully underplays the scares, relying on the ‘less is more’ strategy that made the original film so successful. In the American version, Samara is given a greater backstory and therefore a more human side. She becomes a very tragic figure- a gifted, haunted child who craves her mother’s attention to the point of madness. She is a child who is unable to control her gifts. A particular stand out scene in The Ring is on a ferry where a horse rampages wildly through parked cars. The pacing of the scene is frantic and the look is dark and foreboding. The Ring is simple, stark, and ominous; it’s proof that horror films can be scary even when they are short on blood.

Gore Verbinski directed the entire film in a sterile, almost alien glean that makes you uncomfortable from the get-go, Hans Zimmer provides an eerie, at times heartbreaking, but at other times truly creepy score, and with Naomi Watts in the lead role, the film has a world-class actress who is capable of selling the fear while never stumbling into scream queen territory. This is the actress’ first move since Mulholland Drive and if you are complaining that viewers essentially learn nothing about her character in The Ring except that she’s a newspaper reporter, remember that in Mulholland Drive, we essentially learned nothing except that she was a small-town girl in Hollywood, and by the end of the movie we weren’t even sure we had learned that. While Mulholland Drive evoked juicy emotions and dimensions, The Ring involves us in a puzzle that was intriguing instead of simply tedious.

Nothing, however, has brought The Ring as much praise and criticism as its child stars, David Dorfman as Aiden and Daveigh Chase as Samara. Chase is terrifying both in and out of the ‘video’ and has put a benchmark for horror villains; that scene of Samara crawling out of the TV is dark and haunting whose impact is remembered till today. On the other hand, Dorfman is disturbing as a whole and on his own. His character seems to be wiser and more mature than all the adults in the film, a fact that makes his role deeply unsettling when coupled with his small physical size. At one point, Dorfman is putting on a suit in the mirror and the fact that that such a simple mundane act is actually HIGHLY creepy in his hands stands as a testament to the quality of his work in this film.

Creepy and interesting, The Ring is a solid horror movie, particularly if you are a fan of the genre. Oh, and in case you were wondering, the ring referred to in the title is in reference to an image seen on the videotape. It is also the last image you will see seven days later right before you die.

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