Praise for Verbinski's film rings loud and clear
Do you like scary movies?
No, I don't mean the kind of slasher crap that question made you think of, but the real deal-the un-gory, un-sexy, unmerciful psychological thriller that blast you out of your seat like minefields, and leave you shaking like a freakin' chihuahua as you put the key in the ignition and drive the hell away. Ironically, the genius of these films is that they don't require any thought whatsoever, because no matter how carefully you think you're sneaking through its turf, those mines are gonna blow you right back into submission. You may as well be blind.
That kind of unconquerable suspense requires major cinematic skill-a piercing mastery of timing, radical domination of music, and irrational exploitation of editing.
The Ring has got this skill; it's got it bad-and it surges through the film like a two-hour seizure.
The plot begins like this: four teenagers die grotesque but unexplainable deaths at the exact same time miles apart. Driven by a personal connection to one of them, Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts, Mulholland Drive) digs deeper and discovers that the culprit is a mysterious videotape that dooms all those who watch it to death in exactly seven days-a tape she watched. In the next seven days, she, her boyfriend Noah (Martin Henderson) and her son Aidan (Davdi Dorfman) uncover the mysteries of the tape in an attempt to save themselves.
Read critic's reviews and you'll see them tear up this story for what it doesn't explain. But that's not even the issue; they're missing the point entirely. The core of this film is visual; the story is just the background. It's important, yes, but definitely not the active ingredient. The images are the monster here. The killer works through a videotape, after all, a tape made up of solely images with no narrative whatsoever. Fear doesn't require explanation. In fact, it's far, far more efficient without it.
What is so scary? A pale little girl with her hair draped over her face walking toward you. A chair spinning around statically in the air. A stone well in the middle of a field. A blank television screen. Nothing like what you'd expect. And then there's the ring; the image you see before you die. Sound random? It's not. Every random image on the tape, the teens' deaths, the seven days, all have a reason for being; this isn't a cheap horror flick where the killer is just a guy with an axe whose mother didn't love him. All these images actually end up tying together all the elements of the mystery into its twisted, haunting resolution.
With this electric lab experiment in visual suspense, director Gore Verbinski (figures) seems to have finally found his calling. His last project, The Mexican in 2001, pissed a lot of people off: critics, viewers, and, of course, Mexicans. Unlike that disaster, this film is tighter and more potent. It knows what it's doing and loves it.
There is a downside for actors acting in pure horror movies-they can never win any awards for their performances. It just doesn't take that much talent to scream and jump and stare openmouthed, and even when they manage to inject a special spunk to their high-pitched scenes, most of the audience is too scared to watch anyway. That being said, Naomi Watts did the best she could. Rachel is not a particularly nice woman; we root for her only because we want to find out what's really going on. But it's quite intriguing to watch her ruthlessness take over her character as the movie progresses.
The other actors didn't go far beyond their expectations either, though it is worth mentioning that Daveigh Chase, who plays Samara Morgan, the freakiest little girl demon since Regan MacNeil in The Exorcist, last worked on Disney's Lilo and Stitch as the voice of Lilo. Now that's versatility.
The Ring will be one of the most frightening films you've ever seen. Short of closing your eyes for the entire film, you can't escape it. So just take a deep breath, watch closely, and get ready to jump.