Summary: A cursed videotape kills its victims seven days after they watch it.
Review: Here’s one that I’m rather embarrassed to admit I haven’t seen, at least not in full. The Ring occupies a strange niche in my movie-watching history; I have fond memories of seeing parts of it back in its millennial heyday, yet I never managed to watch it in its entirety. Now, several years and countless horror movies later, I’m happy to say that it was worth the wait.
We all know the story, so I’ll keep this brief. After a teenager’s mysterious death, her mother asks her aunt Rachel (a superb Naomi Watts), a Seattle reporter, to try to find some answers. Soon Rachel finds herself investigating an urban legend of a killer videotape that her niece had apparently seen before her death. After watching the tape herself, Rachel realizes that the legend is all too real, and she only has one week to figure out how to stop it.
Above all else, The Ring is a stunning mood piece. Gore Verbinski’s direction is literally dripping with atmosphere, using a grey-green palette and images of a perpetually foggy Seattle to immerse viewers in its ambiance. It’s an oddly beautiful film as well; its expansive shots of the Pacific Northwest are coldly striking, and provide sharp contrast to its periodic bursts of horrific images. The movie knows to build suspense before unleashing full-fledged scares, but despite a handful of terrifying moments, it opts for creepy rather than horrific most of the time, and is better for it. A scene with a horse running loose on a ferry, for example, is virtually bloodless but thoroughly disturbing.
The other (sadly) unique feature of The Ring is an intelligent, well-told story. It works equally as well as a mystery as it does a horror movie, steadily parsing out information to keep the audience invested. The puzzle of the videotape’s origins is instantly compelling, and its eventual reveal manages to provide satisfying answers while never giving too much away. At two hours long it’s meatier than most movies of its ilk, but remains engrossing from its shocking opening to its bleak, chilling ending.
The Verdict: As scary now as it was fifteen years ago, The Ring has earned its status as a modern horror classic. I give it eight-and-a-half vindictive videotapes out of ten.