DELIVER US FROM EVIL is a Greek tragedy as much as it is a neo-noir about morality and the misuse of faith.
BLOODLANDS tells the story of an Albanian family struggling in the Balkans, and how the perpetual cycle of blood feuds has lurched into the 21st century.
The Ring. 2002. Directed by Gore Verbinski. Screenplay by Ehren Kruger; based on the 1998 screenplay Ringu by Hiroshi Takahashi, also based on the novel The Ring by Kôji Suzuki.
Starring Naomi Watts, Martin Henderson, David Dorfman, Brian Cox, Jane Alexander, Lindsay Frost, Amber Tamblyn, Rachael Bella, Daveigh Chase, and Shannon Cochran. Dreamworks SKG.
Rated 14A. 115 minutes.
Good remakes are few and far between. While most people bemoan how often films are rebooted, remade, rehashed these days, I just take it all in stride. I’m not particularly a fan of certain movies that feel classic, especially horror movies such as Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street, being remade – not to mention remade badly. However, I think there is a lot to be said for foreign films being remade for English speaking audiences. Now, a lot of ignorant film fans want to try and say it’s due to laziness, Americans and Canadians don’t want to read subtitles, but that’s a bit foolish. Many people can’t visually process all the words and the images at once; does not say a thing about their intelligence. Granted there are plenty of people who just don’t want to spend the time to do it, simply out of laziness. I just don’t think that’s widely the case. So I find foreign films getting American remakes is often a good thing because it at least gives English speaking audiences a version they can watch.
Now the problem there is that if the remake is not up to par, then it’s really no sense having it done at all. If you’re going to remake something, give it the best effort and as much justice as possible.
For this reason, I believe Gore Verbinski’s remake of Ringu satisfies my requirements of a good remake. There is an excellent air of dread that pervades the entire film. Even further, Bojan Bazelli handles the cinematography, and though I’m not particularly huge on his later work he has a great filmography: Pumpkinhead, Boxing Helena, and he also served as Director of Photography on Abel Ferrara’s Body Snatchers remake, as well as a highly underrated film with an exceptional cast, the serial killer thriller Kalifornia starring the odd pair of David Duchovny and Brad Pitt. With the technical side of things covered, Naomi Watts’ performance as the lead character cements The Ring as one of the best remakes out there in the horror genre. A statement I’ll probably always stand by, as so many horror remakes are butchered beyond belief.
The Ring tells the story of a cursed videotape, supposedly a mere high school rumour floating about from teen to teen. However, in the opening sequence as two young girls – Katie (Amber Tamblyn) and Becca (Rachael Bella) – are discussing the tape, which prompts the viewer to receive a phone call afterwards warning of their impending death in seven days, Katie reveals she recently saw the tape at a cabin with some friends. Not long after, Katie is dead, found in her closet with the absolute look of dread and fear on her death, twisted into a hideous face on her cold corpse.
Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts) is a reporter who happens to be the aunt of Katie. She begins to dig into the story of the videotape, finding out it has killed more than just Katie. Soon, Rachel starts to discover more than anticipated. With the help of her videographer friend Noah (Martin Henderson), who is also the father of her little boy Aidan (David Dorfman), Rachel hopes to track down where the videotape came from, who the mysterious girl in the video is, and why it has the power to kill.
One of the most impressively creepy aspects of The Ring is the cursed videotape itself. The events surrounding the tape are all highly disturbing, yet the tape is what shook me most. The first you see it, nothing lingers too long, though we do see most of the shots in rapid succession. It’s only later once Rachel starts to examine the tape with Noah that we start to see the images linger slightly, then we’re able to examine the tape overall a little more closely.
Every single shot of the videotape has its own creepiness. I think mostly the woman on the tape scares me; when she turns and then looks into the camera, I find it chilling. All those seemingly random images put together become this woven tapestry of fear. The grittiness of the tape, the sound in the background, everything works to grind on your nerves and get inside you. An incredible instance of how visuals work in conjunction with sound design. The way in which they filmed the scenes of the video makes it even more frightening than if it were done in a straightforward fashion; the effects applied make it seem like an ancient curse, a videotape that became what it is even before the VCR was a thing.
I also love that moment when Rachel notices the fly on the screen, which she thought was in the tape itself, is actually a physical entity; she picks it right off the screen between her fingers. I loved this scene! Such a weird, unsettling moment that sorts of strikes you right in the chest. Good, good stuff.
Another part I found disturbing was when the horse went crazy. I always find, in supernatural films, when animals become affected by whatever is happening there’s an element about that which really gets to me. In this film especially, I think it works quite well. Once the horse hits the water after jumping overboard, we get this nasty, macabre shot of everyone watching the boat’s rear, then the water fills with blood for a brief moment. Perfect horror-filled scene.
The premise of The Ring – the story/rumour circulating in the high school about a videotape which kills you after seven days if you’ve watched it – is also part of why I’ve loved the film. What feels like another one of those widely circulated urban legends becomes a supernatural story, a real one. Instead of the same old urban legends of the killer in the backseat, the killer under the bed, this is one that moves through videotape – a modern virus for those afflicted with the addiction to television and movies. In the modern age, where can we go anymore without televisions? The plot of this film starts off with kids who’d seen the tape in a cabin out in the woods; even out in the middle of the forest, at a group of cabins, there is a television and a VCR. Then at one point Noah sees his face, messed up like the photographs earlier in the film, and it’s on a security camera in a corner store. So I think The Ring also acts a kind of modern parable about not just technology, but also the power of how our images are captured, all the possibilities of how that retains one’s soul, all kinds of things like that.
A ton of powerful imagery in this movie.
For instance, I love all the water that we see in many of the scenes. One of my favourites happen as Rachel is on the phone – first, she starts to pull a long black thread-like cord out of her mouth, choking on it, and then when she picks up the phone trickles of water come out the receiver. Even in the opening sequence, as Katie (Tamblyn) goes back to her room to find her friend, a pool of water is leaking out from under the door, an ominous stream beginning to fill up the hallway. Of course, we come to find out later in the film what water has to do with anything – but even before that, the image of the water creeping in everywhere, invading their lives, threatening to drown them, it works wonders on the psyche and helps to stretch out that air of dread Bazelli and Verbinski work so hard to attain.
Then certainly when Brian Cox’s character does what he does – also involving water – it is another dreadful and tonally spot-on moment. Keeps things grim and dark and full of terror.
I can’t not mention the score of the film by Hans Zimmer. Definitely one of the my favourite composers. Even his work on Man of Steel, which I hated as a movie (because I don’t dig Superman much in general and it was just a wank of a movie), is absolutely incredible. The music in The Ring has a ton of beautiful string arrangements, varying from the light thriller-like pieces to dreadful sounds that signal oncoming dread. To my knowledge, Zimmer hasn’t done much in terms of horror, so it’s awesome to hear this score come from him. Definitely adds an interesting element to the entire film, an extra dimension to enjoy.
Something else I found worked well is the green-ish hue so many of the scenes have throughout the film. It’s like certain shots are bathed in washed out emerald. Makes every scene begin to feel so creepy and off-kilter, as if at any moment the horror might come out of nowhere. Definitely a look which worked. Helps to set the tone in a horror film if the cinematographer and director go for a distinguishing look such as the one here.
Ultimately, I think what I really do love about The Ring is extremely depressing and scary background to the videotape itself, the explanations behind the girl on it Samara and what happened to her. It’s, as I said, depressing stuff, but it really does work for the film. When Rachel goes back to Samara’s home and meets Richard Morgan (Cox), it begins a descent into madness that doesn’t let up until the finale. I think that while there are a few little jump scares, which horror needs at least a pinch of at times, most of the tension and suspense of the film comes through its story. Verbinski, though often a big Hollywood blockbuster maker, doesn’t fall into the same pitfalls as many other horror remakes at the hands of big studios often do. He goes for the long game, working on the atmosphere, the overall tone, and it helps that the script by Ehren Kruger from which he’s working is a fairly tight knit piece of writing.
To me, Gore Verbinski’s remake of The Ring is a solid 4.5 out of 5 star horror film. I can’t particularly say what, if anything much, is wrong with the movie. There may be a few instances in the dialogue where I thought a scene was lacking, however, other than perhaps a couple spots there isn’t much to complain about on that end. Either way, it’s not a perfect film, but it’s certainly close to it for me: an incredibly effective horror. Lots of good imagery going on inside a story that is so well fleshed out I’m surprised this was something out of a major Hollywood studio. So often we get terrible remakes that do the original no justice, nor do they do anything for themselves. With The Ring, at least we get some impeccable atmosphere, a solid horror tone, and some wonderful acting particularly from Naomi Watts.
You can do much worse than this in regards to remakes. I’ll be watching this for years to come, as I have since it first was released, and I’ll continually look at this as one of the best remakes out there. Certainly one of the top remakes of a Japanese horror film.