Gore Verbinski’s iconic remake of Ringu , The Ring, was my first horror movie and I have a soft spot in my heart for it. I remember as a kid, I watched the beginning scene of Scary Movie 3 and got so scared of it that I had to run out of the room. Yes, young me was a wimp. Looking back on the moment I have no idea why it was so scary. But I knew that I had to avoid the film. Imagine my horror, when I realized what I had seen was a parody and that the real movie were far scarier. I actively thought about the movie. I wanted to get over it, but I was also just scared of it. Thankfully, in my early teen years, I decided to conquer my fears and take the plunge. The Ring absolutely terrified me and I couldn’t look at my T.V for weeks after my first viewing. After my recent re-watch, I’m satisfied to see how eerie and evocative the movie really is. It holds up remarkably well and is still scary even now.
For those of you who don’t know, the movie follows Rachel (Naomi Watts) a journalist who comes into contact with a disturbing set of supernatural coincidences. In her discovery, she uncovers a rumor of a tape said to kill anyone who views it in 7 days. After watching the tape, Rachel has to uncover the mystery before falling victim to the curse.
Given that it’s a remake, it’s surprising to see how creativity Verbinksi managed to add to the film. I love how the color palette is dark and blue which keeps the mood bleak and ominous. The deaths in this movie are a lot more chilling and scary in a traditional sense. When we see our first victim it’s incredibly disturbing. They linger on the screen briefly – just enough to disturb the viewer without giving us enough time to inspect the damage. Despite having seen this film at least four times, the scares still get me each viewing and stay in my thoughts long after the screen turns black. The changes to the contents of the cursed tape are also great. It’s a lot scarier in this movie and some of the images made my stomach churn. In particular, I really liked the burning tree and the way it was incorporated throughout the plot. If you watch the movie, you’ll know what I mean.
I like how much more agency the lead character is given in comparison to her counterpart in the original. Rachel feels more humane. In the original movie, Reiko wants to investigate because she’s a journalist. Her personal relation to the case is secondary. Meanwhile, in this movie, the situation is reversed for Rachel, and she only investigates because of a familial connection. It makes her feel more sympathetic and helps her feel layered when contrasted with her introduction. Watt’s acting also helps her character feel relatable. I wanted her to win and felt a real connection to her. Her expression of grief and desperation were excellent. I also love how much more evil Sadako/Samara (Daveigh Chase) is in this movie. The changes to her backstory remove an element of philosophical nuance, but it make her presence a lot more menacing and evil.
I didn’t like how the mystery of the tape was handled in this movie compared to the remake. The way characters come to key discoveries feels undeserved and more luck based which takes away from the realistic portrayal of events. In particular, Aidan (David Dorfman) is used as a plot tool more than once and it makes his entire character feel like a device to set events in play.
Certain moments are carried over from the first film, but because this movie skips certain subplots, those moments don’t feel as emotionally charged. For example, the removal of a lot of the psychic subplot removes a lot of the rich commentary on how we treat and inflict violence on the Other. It also makes the decision to keep Aidan a psychic feel strange and unneeded. It’s never done to do anything cool and its inclusion actively makes certain plot elements more confusing. The scope of his powers and knowledge of the situation also don’t line up properly, so it just makes more trouble than necessary.
TLDR: The Ring is a faithful remake of Ringu that manages to add enough new and interesting material to appeal to fans of the original. The film isn’t as thematically strong, but its scares and chilling atmosphere more than compensate.
Final Rating: 9.3/10. One of the moodiest horror movies I’ve had the privilege of seeing. This is one of the few good remakes of a horror movie I’ve seen and anyone who wants a good, clever, scary movie should watch this.
This review is also part of the Ring series- spoiler analysis will be posted in a longer article at a later point.