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... and then you die
on 11 January 2006
Most horror movies actually lack horror -- lots of shrieking blondes, guts, blood and sharp objects. But such is not the case in "The Ring," and to a lesser degree its sequel, "Ring Two" -- these movies have a deeply creepy villain, loads of atmosphere and (mostly) good plotting.
"The Ring" opens with single mum Rachel (Naomi Watts) attending her niece's funeral. Weirdly enough, several of her friends died on the exact same day, at the same time. Rachel investigates the mountain cabin all the kids stayed at a week ago, and finds a videotape with a series of bizarre images -- and a curse that will kill you one week afterwards.
She enlists the help of her ex-boyfriend Noah (Martin Henderson) to help her unravel and break the curse. The secret of the tape is wrapped up in a young girl, Samara, who vanished from her adoptive parents' horse farm years ago. Somehow Samara's evil rage has lived in on her curse, and it will destroy Rachel, Noah and their son unless Rachel can find a way to escape it.
"The Ring Two" opens with Rachel and Aiden (David Dorfman) leaving for a small town, trying to escape the memory of Samara. At first, everthing seems fine. But then a boy is found with a horribly distorted face -- meaning that the tape still exists, and Samara is still able to attack innocent victims.
Even worse, Aiden begins showing signs of psychic power, and seeing visions of Samara in reflective surfaces. Rachel realizes that the ghoul-girl wants to possess Aiden, and must dig even further into Samara's history to find her birth mother. But to save her son, she may have to make the ultimate sacrifice -- herself.
Remaking Asian horror movies is a big thing at the moment, with everything from "The Grudge" to "The Eye" getting the A-list Hollywood treatment, with varying results. But "The Ring" was the first of these, adapted from Hideo Nakata's adaptation of Koji Suzuki's novel. (Cue cries of "but the original was better)
And it's a surprisingly good adaptation. Director Gore Verbinski alters a few things from the original film, but keeps the same dark, murky atmosphere and many of the same scenes. Even some of the same camera shots are preserved, though he also amps up the sense of quiet, creeping horror as the end of Rachel's seven days approaches.
For the sequel, however, they got in Nakata himself. And surprisingly, the original director didn't do as well; perhaps he underestimated American audiences. But there's a sloppier feel to "Ring Two," some scenes (the deer) that make no sense, and an ending that was apparently lifted from another of his own movies. Despite this, the performances of the actors and some truly horrifying moments keep it suitably gruesome.
But the keystone of both movies is Naomi Watts. This was the ultimate starmaking turn for this talented actress, and she is nearly perfect as the perpetually worried Rachel; as the deadline approaches, her fear and grief are almost overwhelming. Henderson is also good, whether as a flip carefree artist or as a caring ex, but Dorfman seems less like a little boy than a pompous oracle.
While the sequel is sloppier than the first, both "Ring" movies are horrifying and quietly chilling, with one of the scariest and most memorable killers in cinematic history.