Monday, November 14, 2011

Ringing In My Eyes: The Ring Leaves Me Unimpressed.

The Good: The first few minutes
The Bad: Terrible acting, Pointless ending, Lack of empathetic characters, Dull plot, Pacing
The Basics: When a series of deaths is tied to a mysterious video tape, an investigative reporter risks her life to solve the mystery of the killer in The Ring. Yippee.

A few years ago, I was at a Star Trek convention and a promoter for a film studio was present giving out promotional items like posters and buttons and such. At the end of the weekend, he dipped into his box of things and pulled out a lone video tape. My assistant at the convention was given the tape, though the promoter had no idea what was on it. I took the tape home and watched it. What it appeared to be was a crazy, German expressionist type video with more in common with a Danzig video than anything else. At the end of the weird and creepy tape, there was a URL and, slightly grossed out by the home video, I dutifully went there. At the site, I was informed that I had a week left to live and that the tape had contained things like hypnotic suggestions and my days were numbered. I was outraged and a little freaked out. My partner and I spent the week that followed with "I only have x days left, so what the heck?" as a continual punchline. It wasn't until The Ring came out later in the year that I realized this was just a poorly made advertising tool (the website did not mention the movie at all).

So, a few days ago, I got The Ring out of the library to see what all of the hype was about. It's too bad I did; the idea of it was much more interesting.

The Ring follows the investigation of Rachel Keller, a reporter who bothers to investigate the death of her niece (I say "bother" because it seems the police are absent in the film, leaving the detective work to an investigative reporter) at the hands of a video tape. Rachel gets her hands on a copy of the video that her niece watched that supposedly kills people seven days after seeing it. Rachel then watches the tape and becomes obsessed with discovering its cryptic meaning before she is slain. Her quest to learn the truth leads her to a strange little dead girl who appears to be killing from beyond the grave using the video as a gateway into the real world.

The first problem with The Ring is its largest. None of the characters are at all interesting. Rachel is dull and her devotion to discovering what killed her niece seems misplaced given how much she neglects her own son. Her character is riddled - like the movie - by a series of stupid contradictions. For example, Rachel instantly believes in the power of the video to kill, given that all the people who watched it with her niece died at the same time, yet she leaves the video around the house where her son could - and does - watch it. Moreover, she steals the video from a cottage in the woods when the owner of the cottages tells her she is welcome to borrow any of the videos in the library. It seems pointless that she makes the effort to conceal her taking the video off the shelf when it is freely offered.

Rachel's character is not the only uninteresting one that fails to engage us. Indeed, none of the characters seem worthy of saving and as the film plods along, one wonders why any of them even bother. Rachel's son, Aidan, lacks any character and Noah, her ex-husband, seems strangely devoted to a woman he couldn't stay married with. Richard Morgan, one of the characters at the flashpoint of the killer girl's supernatural existence, is unfathomably driven in the movie to do what he does. His motivation seems forced and his exit from the movie is met with more dispassion than anything else.

The saddest thing about The Ring is that it utilizes a couple of decent actors and does nothing with them. The wonderful Brian Cox, who portrays Richard Morgan, is underutilized in a role that does not take advantage of his range or force him to use his full ability as an emotive actor. Instead, his performance is bland and confused.

Naomi Watts, who helped make the confusing Mulholland Drive (reviewed here!) watchable, is similarly wasted in The Ring. The entire movie becomes a countdown to Rachel's potential death and as it nears, Watts does nothing to endear the viewer to her character. So, as the countdown goes on, there is no real sense of menace because the viewer doesn't care about her character. Watts simply shows up and moves around the screen, doing little beyond that to present Rachel as an actual person with any significant backstory or interesting life.

The Ring culminates in one of the most pointless lines in cinematic history. Given that Rachel succeeds in unraveling the mystery of the video tape, why she does not use the same diligence to destroy any copies of the video is a bigger mystery than the one that inspired the film. In the end, The Ring lacks any real sense of tension, a single decent character to care about and fails to use the talents of any of the actors employed in it. Whatever arguments might be made for this, it is not a true horror; there is nothing scary about it. If you want scary, take a week where you think you've actually seen a video that will kill you, at least then you'll be afraid for someone you care about.

For other horror movies, be sure to visit my reviews of:
Wrong Turn
28 Days Later


For other movie reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2003 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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