The October release of “The Ring” has brought a new niche of ‘edge of your seat’ horror films shown with intensity and not the usual blood and gruesomeness, especially for a PG-13 movie.
An independent film approach is central to the ambiguous yet subconsciously lingering peril of the movie.
“The Ring” is packaged with frozen and often distorted still shots of the main characters, superstitious artifacts and the lush Northwestern scenery in fluid subconscious images.
This American production is a Dreamworks production based on Japanese writer Koji Suzuki’s cult hit, and is directed by newcomer Gore Verbinski, behind last year’s hit “The Mexican.”
The opening scene tries to be a spin-off of any other teen-horror flick, while it provides a framework to guide viewers through the preceding characters in the story.
Katie (Amber Tamblyn) and Becca (Rachel Bella) are two teens that find nothing to watch on late night television. Like any other gossip, Becca confesses that she, some friends and a new boy spent last weekend at a remote cabin.
The cabin owner loans second-hand video tapes to watch and the kids decide to watch this mysterious unlabeled tape. Shortly after the mind-bending and disturbing ensemble of images, each viewer receives a phone call saying they are going to die in seven days precisely.
Upon completion of the traditional teen suspense introduction, Becca is suddenly dead at home, Katie enters a mental hospital from the experience and Becca’s aunt Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts), a Seattle journalist, enters the picture to investigate the video’s connection with the mysterious deaths.
Keller traces the disturbing woman shown framed in a mirror to be Anna Morgan (Shannon Cochran), an estranged but seemingly normal horse-breeder from a nearby island.
The legend was that Morgan was driven mad when her prized horses repeatedly became ill, drowned in the ocean, and the breeder turned to her only daughter Samara (Daveigh Chase), to vent her madness.
“The Ring” becomes the symbol of a curse Samara brings after she is thrown into a well and left to die by her mother.
As Keller’s days are numbered since she and former lover Noah (Martin Henderson) both saw the film and received phone calls, they both enter a crusade to prevent the distribution of the unlabeled tape and discover the story behind Morgan to prolong their lives.
Her son Aidan (David Dorfman) appears distressed from the start, asking about his cousin Becca’s and Samara’s deaths, and through one lapse in scenes Keller runs into the living room as Aidan is watching the tape.
All suspense and horror films considered, “The Ring” takes the cake as the new and most chilling horror film, combining themes from Stephen King’s New England tales such as “Dolores Claiborne” with the bewildering impact of supposed-cult shockers like “The Blair Witch Project.”
Shot in and around the scenic Bellingham and Seattle, WA., this Northwestern tale is a breakthrough film because it is feasible that this story could occur as a myth in ‘Anytown, U.S.A.’
For a major Hollywood release, like “The Blair Witch,” it features a fresh cast of actors and is shot through an apparent cut-and-pasted independent film pace, with intermingling sub-stories of the film all coming together.
Although the actual video and flashback scenes were not outrageously gruesome to constitute straight horror, the use of these pervasive images makes the film seem more horror-ful and somehow surprisingly allowable for teen audiences.
Both male and female movie-goers had a defiantly defensive poise in their seats as the film progressed through images of shocked dead faces and surrounding the static of the video.
Leaving the theater Verbinski’s film has you grotesquely worn out from the subtle but forcefully frequent graphic images and the struggling cast pushing to undo the curse of “The Ring’s” video-tape.