Disclaimer…this is a review I did last year for The Prime Reel Estate blog, so it’s not exactly a new review, but if you haven’t seen it already, it’s new to you 🙂
I have a feeling that this is going to be one of my more unpopular reviews. Just going to get that out of the way before we dig into The Ring. When I first saw The Ring in theaters, it was on its way to grossing almost 250 million dollars. I absolutely loved the film…saw it twice actually. I bought it on DVD the day it was released and watched it some more. Many, many years have passed since my last viewing…probably 10 years at least. As you can guess from my disclaimer, my repeat viewing left me less than pleased.
The Ring is an American remake of the Japanese film Ringu, which was released in 1998. It was the first, and most successful of the Japanese horror films that saw American remakes (The Grudge, Pulse, Dark Water, and One Missed Call all saw major theatrical releases as well). Most of America had never seen Ringu so there was something exotic about The Ring, not to mention a pretty great trailer whetting everyone’s appetite. Ringu is most certainly a scarier film, as is the case with most remakes, but the remake had a visual flair to it that set it apart from a generic American cash in.
Let’s start with the positives. Director Gore Verbinski did an excellent job on setting the tone of the film with the visuals. Every scene is painted with dread. It’s hiding in the corners, in the architecture of the buildings, and in the eyes of the characters. His work behind the camera, as I said before, really puts The Ring into a higher category than most remakes. The American version of “the tape” is also much scarier than the Japanese version. I remember sitting in the theater the first time the tape is shown and it sucked the air out of my lungs.
And now, let’s hit the things that aren’t so great. First of all, this movie has not aged well at all. All of the technology used is pretty much obsolete. Tube televisions, land lines, and VHS tapes, etc. all look very out of place. This is typically not a problem and you see old items like this in movies all the time. Hell, I have HUNDREDS of video cassettes. However, when the plot devices of the film revolve around these items it’s harder to ignore. It’s nothing against the film, because these items worked well in its initial run…they’re just jarringly out of place now.
The bigger issue with the film is the script. I actually laughed out loud several times while watching the movie last night because of how terrible the writing was. Not only that, they took a legitimate talent like Naomi Watts and relegate her to shallow overreactions, illogical responses to the events in the film, and leave no real room for an emotional connection to the viewer. Everything is telegraphed to the point of absurdity. It isn’t until you get to the surprise ending that you get a real, “whaaaaaaat?!?” moment, and they ruin that too by adding another, far less exciting ending. It made me feel cheated and it insulted my intelligence by dumbing it all down. After finishing I decided to investigate who was responsible for this shoddy screenplay. Ehren Kruger. Sound familiar? He’s the screenwriter for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, and Transformers: Age of Extinction. In other words, he’s responsible for some of the worst dialogue I’ve ever heard.
So, in closing, I’d like to say that I wish that I hadn’t rewatched it. I wish that I had the glossed over memories of my 2002 self to comfort me into thinking this was one of the better horror films of the 2000’s. Unfortunately my 2016 self now knows better. It’s a beautifully shot film that has no soul whatsoever thanks to a very shallow screenplay. The novelty of films like this are long past and with each passing year The Ring becomes less relevant. Makes me sad a little, but it is what it is.