Thursday, May 12, 2016
(October 2002, U.S.)
For nearly twenty years, somewhere between POLTERGEIST (1982) and THE SIXTH SENSE (1999), the horror film or any sort of scary movie, practically didn't exist for me. In fact, the only film during that period of time that really haunted or scared me in any way was Adrian Lynne's 1990 film JACOB'S LADDER, with it's frightening and creepy images of life, death and the possibility of alternate realities between them. Most of the 1980s and 1990s seemed to be dominated by a continuation of slasher films that went far over the top of what had originally started out as viable scary films, such as HALLOWEEN (1978), THE AMITYVILLE HORROR (1979) and FRIDAY THE 13TH (1980). I found it impossible to feel any sort of fear while watching Jason Voorhees or Freddy Kruger do their thing while they were accompanied by excessive (and unfunny) humor and even rock music. How is any of that scary?
Then, almost as soon as the new century began, somebody got the idea of getting back to the basics of scary movies which does not necessarily have to involve excessive blood, violence or profanity. What truly scares us? I believe it's the things we see that we don't understand and the impressions they leave on our minds and memories. Think of THE EXORCIST (1973) and the momentary images we see of the demon in white makeup during Father Damien Karras' nightmare. Despite everything we experience with Linda Blair and her little experience with the Devil, this is the image most fans of the film remember first. So with the new century came a new series of psychological and visual horror trips that included this film, THE GRUDGE, PULSE, DARK WATER and a bunch of PARANORMAL ACTIVITY movies (I only saw the first one and it was creepy!). When THE RING (based on the Japanese horror film RINGU - I haven't seen it yet. I promise, I will!) first begins, I must confess, I find the entire sequence of the two teenage girls and their discussion of the urban legend of the videotape that kills you seven days after you watch it not only a throwback to cheaper horror material that was provided by men like Wes Craven, but even juvenile. I suppose the film really begins when we only get a brief glimpse of the horror of the death of one of those girls, killed by the effects of the cursed tape, and the investigation of what really happened to her is conducted by her aunt Rachel Keller (played by Naomi Watts), a Seattle journalist who is seemingly perfect for a task that required a lot of questions. Like POLTERGEIST, the TV is our dreaded enemy, and as Rachel watches the videotape, we watch it, too, and taking in its disturbing images and its haunting sense of atmosphere is what's meant to get under our skin throughout the story, without relying on gore (no pun intended to director Gore Verbinski) to deliver the scares and the jumps...
Get the idea?
(Oh, wait! That last one of Naomi Watts in her black underwear is a good image and is likely to stay in your memory for a while, as well!)
SO faster than you can say high school audio-visual squad, the tape is meticulously examined by Rachel's ex-boyfriend Noah (played by Martin Henderson) and the father of her little boy Aiden (played by David Dorfman). They discover hidden footage on the tape of a lighthouse. Further research reveals the identity of a woman on the tape as Anna Morgan, a deceased horse breeder from Moesko Island who killed herself after her beloved horses all drowned from a mysterious ailment. It isn't long, though, before Aiden has watched the horrifying tape and the focus of all intentions is now to save his young life. Rachel travels to Moesko Island to continue to get her answers as time runs out for her, because remember, she apparently is destined to die seven days after watching the tape. The searching inevitably comes to an old well buried under the floor of a rustic cabin where they believe the body of the little girl Samara, the adopted daughter of Anna Morgan, lies. Samara was murdered by her own mother because she (and possibly the rest of the small town) believed she was the evil cause of all the death around them. We believe Samara is simply the innocent victim of a mother gone mad, even until the very end. But the accusations of evil against her are real...and she never sleeps!
In the end, Rachel and Aiden do not die, and the reason I find a little disappointing, if not a cheap cop out - apparently if you personally make a copy of the videotape after watching it, your life is spared because it seems the tape must always be copied and passed on to ensure the survival of the viewers. Whether you buy that one is up to you, but I suppose something had to ensure the survival of mother and son so they could continue things in THE RING TWO (it sucked!).
Favorite line or dialogue:
Aidan Keller: "What happened to the girl?"
Rachel Keller: "Samara?"
Aidan: "Is that her name?"
Aidan: "Is she still in the dark place?"
Rachel: "No. We set her free."
Aidan: "You helped her?"
Aidan: "Why did you do that?"
Rachel: "What's wrong, honey?"
Aidan: "You weren't supposed to help her!"