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The Ring (2002)

Director Gore Verbinski's remake of Hideo Nakata's phenomenally popular 1998 Ringu is a surprisingly effective Hollywood-style suspense movie. But is it as good as the original? For the most part, no. It also doesn't live up to its pre-release hype as a terrifying tale of bone-chilling horror — what it is, though, is a smart, very spooky mystery tale that explores the idea of an urban legend turned real. Four teenagers watch a videotape that is rumored to mysteriously kill everyone who watches it in seven days — unsurprisingly, all four drop dead exactly one week later. Rachel (Naomi Watts), a news reporter whose niece was one of the deceased teens, looks into the matter and, naturally, watches the video. Rachel then shows the tape to her ex-boyfriend, Noah (Martin Henderson), who thinks the killer-video thing is all a bunch of hooey. But soon enough he's a believer and he agrees to help Rachel track down the origins of the tape. After Rachel's son, Aidan (David Dorfman), watches the video, Noah and Rachel are racing against the clock to decipher the creepy images and try to break the curse. The Ring is a pretty faithful adaptation of Nakata's film with a few notable changes. For starters, the evil video — which was only a few quick, bizarre scenes in Ringu — has been expanded into the sort of Buñuel-meets-Brothers Quay short that's usually presented at college film festivals. The child, here called Aidan, has been given a larger role in the proceedings, specifically a supernatural connection to the maker of the cursed video. And the character of Rachel's ex — here her ex-boyfriend, in Ringu her ex-husband — had a strong gift of second sight in the Japanese version, allowing him to discover the unnatural and violent events that led to the curse. In The Ring, Rachel ends up doing a huge amount of research to learn the same information; Ringu's method is a lot more efficient. In turning Ringu into a Hollywood studio film, Verbinski (Mouse Hunt, The Mexican) shows he has a good, if workmanlike, touch when it comes to leaving horrible things to the imagination — the picture is restrained and tense, and some of the creepier set pieces can linger long after you leave the theater. Hans Zimmer's moody score is dead-perfect in tone, and the rainy Northwest landscape recalls David Lynch's use of the same territory in Twin Peaks. Those expecting a jump-out-of-your-seat scare flick of the Scream variety may be a bit disappointed with the languid, atmospheric approach the movie takes — but the truly disturbing finale creates real edge-of-your-seat tension, making The Ring a worthy addition to the canon of brainy horror films like The Sixth Sense and The Others. Dreamworks offers The Ring as a fairly slender DVD release — the anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) is excellent and the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is superb. But those looking for fat disc chock full o' extras will be disappointed; all that's here is the trailer for DreamWorks' release of Ringu and a sort of pointless — but entertainly Lynchian — 15-minute short by Gore Verbinski called Don't Watch This, made up of deleted scenes and surreal imagery from the film. There's also an Easter egg: Scroll down the options on the right side of the menu and, when the cursor disappears, hit "enter" on your remote to watch the evil video in its entirety. To make it extra creepy, you can't stop, pause or fast forward while it's playing — you just have to keep watching until it's through and the phone rings.... Keep-case.
—Dawn Taylor

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