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The Ring

March 17, 2016

The Ring (2002)
Director: Gore Verbinski
Actors: Naomi Watts, Martin Henderson, Brian Cox

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Synopsis: Investigative journalist, Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts), takes it upon herself to try to solve the riddle of the mysterious videotape which kills anyone who watches it….

Review: This thoroughly effective but also thoroughly prosaic and prototypically ‘Hollywood’ of spookers commits the cardinal sin of devaluing what made the raw materials of its fable so potentially original and powerful in the first place.

The very lore of this film’s story is one of superstition, the supernatural, a curse, and – most interestingly of all – signology or ‘suture’ – the way that visual phenomena can uncannily relate to ‘something’….David Lynch would have a field day with material like this but sadly with The Ring‘s commercial bent and in the hands of Hollywood hack par excellence, Gore Verbinski, the ‘uncanny’ is subsumed into a counter-intuitively procedural story of research and exposition. Instead of the unsettling imagery creating a mise en abyme, Naomi Watts’ tenacious reporter is able to conveniently reduce and solve the Freudian, sentimental ‘whodunnit’ machinations at the centre of the mystery through very rote investigative genre tropes: going to a library and just chancing upon a revelatory, dusty old book; a minor detail on a photograph when viewed in close-up enables a major breakthrough; and a traumatised young woman in a cliché of a mental health institute offer clues to break the riddle.

The Ring‘s hackneyed veneer extends to its realisation. Perhaps anticipating Seattle as suitably lugubrious territory for a spot of cultural colonisation (think Nordic Noir ‘rip off’ franchises like The Killing), Verbinski appropriates the melancholic, forboding air of Hideo Nakata’s Ringu through not only the dank Pacific Northwest locale but in saturating the film’s palette in a sceptic off-blue (a tactic borrowed from David Fincher’s dystopian thrillers of this period – Fight Club and Panic Room). Probably the biggest ‘borrowing’ though was from the seminal mainstream Hollywood spooker of a couple of years previous – M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth SenseThe Ring features an early wake scene that is almost a dead ringer for the famous funeral sequence of The Sixth Sense with its low camera angles, its air of mystery, the ‘unseeing’ adults, the phenomenon of an ominous videotape, and of course the ultimate horror icon – a disarmingly self-possessed young boy. It’s this industrial sentiment to be content in simply exploiting and recycling the successful ideas and images from previously popular genre works that betrays The Ring‘s dearth of originality most damningly of all. (March 2016)



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