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:: The Ring

‘The Ring’ centres on a teenage urban legend; cursed videotape. Victims watch the tape, the phone rings and a voice tells them that they will be dead in seven days. When reporter Rachel Weller (Naomi Watts) is begged by her sister to investigate the unexplained ‘heart failure’ of her niece, she discovers that the girl watched the videotape a week before she died.

‘The Ring’ was originally made by director Hideo Nakata in 1998 and was one off Japan’s greatest box office successes. The film has become an international cult horror classic, hence Dreamworks remaking it for a mainstream audience with Gore Verbinski (Mousehunt, The Mexican) directing. The plot is essentially the same with some minor variations provided by scriptwriter Ehren Kruger.

Sadly, all the best narrative and visual ideas are lifted from Nakata’s original work and Verbinski and Kruger contribute the weakest. Given a considerably bigger budget, Verbinski has gone to town on the look of the cursed tape and the special effects associated with the deaths that result. In this way ‘The Ring’ is an object lesson in how not to make a horror film. That is, horror is not merely spectacle but also point of view.

What’s so extraordinary about the original film is the way Nakata can seamlessly shift point of view to draw the audience in to the experience of those who encounter the tape’s horrors; a genuine psychological horror. Verbinski has completely missed this suspense device and instead gone for horror clichés like springing sudden hideous imagery on the audience or cutting from a long silence to a big noise. The performance direction is simplistic, completely missing the complex maternal themes that drive Rachel Weller from the welfare of her own child to the death of another.

Naomi Watts is serviceable in the role though from the end of act one onward appears almost constantly traumatised and has no where else to go emotionally. Her son, played by David Dorfman is one of those standard issue weird, funny-looking kids cast for their ‘spooky’ qualities by well-intentioned directors. Sadly, the child’s prescient characterisation is almost laughably heavy handed. Verbinski would have done better to take a leaf out of Kubrick’s book and cast a child that you want to protect rather than hide from the neighbours. The only good performance comes from Martin Henderson as the cynical Noah. He offers a natural and effortless performance that is a relief from the occasionally histrionic Watts.

If you love horror movies, do yourself a favour and rent the original. Otherwise, don’t expect to be frightened and you won’t be disappointed.

Screening on general release