Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Killer Tape: "The Ring" (2002)

Gore Verbinski brings one of the scariest films in recent memory, reviving my faith in the much maligned horror genre.

Naomi Watts is reporter Rachel, an on-the-go single mom to quiet grade schooler Aidan (David Dorfman). In the opening of the film, two high school girls talk about a mysterious video. When someone watches the nightmarish images, they immediately receive a phone call telling them they have seven days to live. On that seventh day, they die a horrible death. Unfortunately, one of those girls had viewed that tape a week before, and she dies.

Rachel was the girl's aunt, and Rachel's sister asks her to look into the girl's death. The girl had seen the tape during a weekend with friends at a cabin in the woods, and all those friends are dead too. Rachel tracks down the tape, easily, watches it...and then receives the phone call telling her she has a week to live. She shows the tape to newspaper photographer, and Aidan's dad, Noah (Martin Henderson), who is still disbelieving. I will have to stop the plot summary here, since the entire film has Rachel and Noah trying to track down the origin of the video, and with a horrible urgency after Aidan accidentally watches the tape as well.

Based on a Japanese film, director Gore Verbinski adds many horrifying visuals to a ready made creepy story. Verbinski also directed the very funny dark comedy "Mouse Hunt," and he does stuff here you have never seen before. Hans Zimmer adds his best musical score since "Driving Miss Daisy." The cast is good across the board since they do play against type. Dorfman is no cutesy-wutesy kid, as I first expected. Henderson is no he-man beauhunk action hero, as I first expected. Watts is no idiot, as I first expected. Nice character turns by Brian Cox and Jane Alexander, and one scene with an actress I worship- Sara Rue- helps make this cast almost flawless.

My one minor quibble with the film was when the characters sometimes verbalize the solutions, as if we might not quite get it. This is minor, considering the scary imagery of such everyday things as a tree at sunset and a lighthouse on a foggy shore. The final scene that takes place in Noah's studio/apartment is so scary, every noise in my living room seem to amplify to demonic proportions.

"The Ring" does the one thing a horror film is required to do- it scared the willies out of me. Any horror film fan will find something here, and I know I will not be able to let it go anytime soon. (* * * * *) out of five stars.