The Ring (2002): A Horror Film That Subverts Resolution

The Ring

        “The Ring” is easily one of my favorite horror films and I’m grateful to my friends for introducing me to it and “The Grudge.” I will review the original Japanese Horror films at some point, and if I can find an English translation of the book “Ring,” will be reading that as well. This was a horror film that follows a lot of horror tropes but does them so well and manages to subvert expectations during the film, which is part of what makes a monster or concept scary.

       The film was directed by Gore Verbinski and written by Ehren Kruger and produced by Walter F. Parkes and Laurie MacDonald and based off the book “Ring” by Koji Suzuki and the Japanese film “Ringu” by Hiroshi Takahashi.

      The story surrounds an urban legend about a video tape that killers the person who views it in seven days. When  Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts) is researching the mysterious death of her niece she finds the videotape and watches it, leaving her only seven days to solve the mystery behind it.

This Review does contain SPOILERS

The Pros: The Soundtrack – Hans Zimmer is responsible for this amazing soundtrack and truly is a master of his craft. The sense of tension and mystery is largely thanks to the score which keeps the tension going even when there is nothing to fear. It also is great at manipulation of the resolution before upping the threat level again.

The Mystery – The mystery surrounding the tape is the driving drama of the film and it is beautifully presented as Rachel is the journalist who is putting the pieces together and it is through her eyes we get each reveal. This is in part from the great writing.

The Tape – The tape is haunting as we see a tree, a burning a tree, a ladder, a horse, a landscape and a woman jumping with Samara eventually entering the frame and the reveal of the well.

Rachel – Rachel is played by Naomi Watts and for our horror movie heroine…she actually is pretty smart. We see her seeking to solve the problem the moment she knows something is wrong and in the end she manages to save her son even if Samara can’t be stopped.

Anna Morgan – Shannon Cochran is good as the haunting woman we see who seems cursed and not all there. This is from her being insane which we are left wondering if it was happening because of what she did to get Samara or if Samara is the one responsible. Regardless, all is not right with the Morgans.

Richard Morgan – Richard didn’t want a child so he kept Samara locked away in the barn with the horses and ignore the violence she was doing. Brian Cox plays a great morally grey character as we see a man who deeply loved his wife but was controlling about Samara and clearly abusive to her, whether to protect himself and his wife or simply because he didn’t want a child is unknown. In the end Samara drives him to kill himself though.

Samara – Daveigh Chase is awesome as the creepy monster child who just wants to kill people. Her interviews at the asylum and the haunting tape she created with her mind make her an otherworldly being that doesn’t care about anything beyond being heard. Whether she was always this way or became this way is left up in the air, but she makes a great antagonist as she kills most of the people in this film.

Subverting Resolution – At one point Rachel finds the well and Samara’s corpse and believes she is free now after her mother had tried drowning her in the well. Aidan soon tells her that she was wrong and the well was the one thing holding her back and now she is out in the world. It’s a great subversion as we see Noah no longer getting his happy ending with his son Aidan and ex Rachel as Samara kills him. Subverting the way the movie was going with a happy ever after and a child freed from abuse.

A Story of Abuse – Whether Samara is the abuser or the messed up Morgans are responsible the story of abuse is part of the story. All the Morgans are twisted and messed up in different ways as they seek to hold onto what was or what they want, to the point that they either kill themselves, go insane or begin targeting others. Samara is abuse incarnate as her disregard for all shows her as the sociopath driving the action and the tape.

Okay: Noah – Noah is the boyfriend and ex of Rachel and is okay. He didn’t stand out in any way and was more of a cocky guy who begins to rise to the occasion to be a father for Aidan. I never fully trusted the character though and I don’t know if that was due to the performance or the writing.

Aidan – Aidan is the overly intelligent kid which I put as okay here as I know finding good child actors is hard…but kids talking like adults (which usually is a horror trope) is super annoying as I always saw it as lazy writing. The kids are never allowed to be kids and have to always end up being psychics or spirits.

  This was a great horror movie and one is one of my favorites. I am looking forward to watching the original and can’t wait to do a compare and contrast between them and the ways they are similar and differ. This is a film that manages to captures the horror of the unknown (Samara and her unknown origin) and subverts the spirit just wanting to be released as we learn Samara is a monster who just enjoys killing people. I wish she’d had more to her backstory than that but more can be read into it, which is part of what makes this story so rich.

Final Score: 9.5 / 10 One of the best horror films I have ever watched.

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