Premiere issue Autumn 2002

Remake of Japanese film wanders but makes it up in thrills

The Ring
Written by Ehren Kruger
Adapted from the Japanese film "Ringu" (written by Hiroshi Takahashi)
Directed by Gore Verbinski

Rated PG-13.
Official Web site

An accomplished mystery presents a puzzle in jagged pieces, presenting them askew so the common eye cannot place it together until the filmmaker is ready to show the entire portrait. Nothing's more frustrating than when filmmakers put the pieces together and the picture is faded or missing. Even more aggravating is when the filmmaker refuses to place the pieces of the jigsaw back together.

The Japanese horror hit "Ringu" by Hideo Nakata has been remade for American audiences and though Gore Verbinski's haunting direction will have audiences biting their nails in terror, writer Ehren Kruger leads the viewers to a disjointed ending that left me feeling begrudged instead of bedazzled.

Similar to the original film (according to the synopsis in the Internet Movie Database), the plot involves a demonic videotape. In the opening scene, we're warned of an urban legend. The videotape contains vivid images resembling a nightmare. After they watch the tape, unsuspecting viewers immediately receive a phone call from a phantom little girl claiming the viewer will die in seven days. Seven days later, the viewers mysteriously die violently.

In the opening scenes we witness a terrified girl as the end of her seventh day comes to a horrifying conclusion. The girl's death affects her cousin (David Dorfman), a little boy with psychic powers. His mother, Rachel (Naomi Watts), an investigative reporter, delves into the mystery that killed her young niece. She discovers the tape at a cabin in the woods and watches it. Seconds later, the phone rings.

The Ring

From this moment on, we're trapped on a fast moving conveyer belt to hell as our heroine has 168 hours to unravel the truth of the tape or suffer the inevitability of The Ring.

With its silly premise, "The Ring" has found a perfect parable for fate and humans' need to control that predetermination. By condensing our mortality to seven days, the storytellers have magnified the fear man feels when his time has come to a close. Director Verbinski intensifies the panic by counting down our heroine's seven days.

Writer Kruger, though, refuses to allow the terror to gel. Red herrings dangle, characters react in jumbled ways and several false endings disjoint the audience. The final moments are too baffling.

Ignoring the script's misgivings, Verbinski turns his film into a cornucopia of homages. He plays with conventions by mocking the horror classics. We have a shower scene and a rotating chair straight out of "Psycho," and a boy with a sixth sense like Stephen King's "Shining." The opening mocks both Wes Craven's "Scream" and "When A Stranger Calls." The images in the tape itself seem like snippets from David Lynch's "Eraserhead." Any horror movie fan would enjoy picking out this mystery equivalent to "Where's Waldo."

An average film with a jarring mood, "The Ring" won't be a classic of the genre, but for a few hours, audiences' hearts will pound, their guts will churn and their breathing will race.

Review by Jonas Schwartz.

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