Anyone who doesn't know the story of The Ring (2002) has surely been living in a well themselves for some years now, but for the record, the premise is simple: Watch this creepy videotape and seven days later you will die.
Undoubtedly, the J-horror remakes and "dead girl with long black hair" flicks have been done to death, to the point where filmmakers (Asian or American) would have to come up with something pretty revelatory to get me to feel like I hadn't been there before. For me, however, The Ring came first. It was a revelation.
Because this marathon was all about some of my favorite horror movies, I get to tell you boring stories about them and you can't do anything about it. Ha! Anyway, I saw The Ring the first time in a theatre in the middle of nowhere, Pennsylvania during a weekend getaway. The theatre was packed, and I figured I was in for an experience something akin to the first time I saw Scream, which was basically a riot- people yelling and talking at the screen. For Scream it was the perfect atmosphere, but I didn't think it would work for The Ring. I was completely shocked, however, the the theatre fell silent during the first 15 minutes of the film and stayed quiet for the duration. That never happens with these kids today! I was all ready to shake my fists at them and everything, but the movie held the entire audience in thrall. It was, in a word, bitchin'.
Much later that night in the hotel, after everyone had fallen asleep, I woke up and hit the bathroom. Not wanting to wake anyone, I left the lights off. When I got back to bed, I lay there awake for quite some time, terrified. I swear to you, placing my right hand on a copy of Son of Mad Libs, that I couldn't and wouldn't open my eyes because I was convinced that Samara was in the room, an inch from my face, staring at me. I was absolutely petrified. Of course it's completely ridiculous in retrospect, pretty much to the point of embarassment. I give you all total permission to laugh at me, but my god...that feeling is exactly why I watch horror movies. It had been a long, long time since I'd had that severe a reaction to a horror movie- it's a rare thing, excruciating and somehow pleasurable all at the same time. Sort of like watching Walker, Texas Ranger. You're never sure if you're going to make it out the other side of the experience alive.
The film loses impact with each viewing, and while I do still find it supremely creepy, Samara no longer keeps me awake at night...last night (or earlier this morning, if you want to be a technical about it. Why do you always have to be such a stickler for such things?) is evidence of that. There's still so many aspects of this movie that I love, however, and it remains a pleasure to watch.
-I love the piecing-together-the-puzzle angle. It makes me feel like Jessica Fletcher, but in a good way, unlike my bursitis.
-I love that Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts) isn't really a good mom. She's selfish, a tad neglectful, and...human. She loves her son, but she doesn't really get the whole mom thing right. I've read that this character flaw is exactly why Jennifer Connolly (Requiem for a Dream) turned down the role, for which I stick my middle finger up at Jennifer Connolly.
-I love the timeline/deadline method of storytelling. Some folks gripe that it lessens the impact of events because you know nothing's really gonna happen for seven days. I think it heightens the drama...the urgency builds as the clock counts down and Rachel tries to figure shit out.
-I love the way the film looks, the blue tones and the pervasive rain. I do so like it when filmmakers pay attention to the work as a whole and not just the money shots.
-I love how unsettling the film can be at times. Anyone who's undisturbed by the horse sequence is...I don't know, a robot or something.
-I love that the film turns "ghost story" conventions inside out. Samara cannot be appeased; she won't disappear when you put her soul to rest. She has no soul. She's pure evil, seeking only to hurt others. Setting her free does just that- she's out and she hates you.
-I love Noah's (Martin Henderson) death sequence. The first time I saw Samara coming out of the TV, it was like having the floor pulled out from under me.
-I love Naomi Watts
I know the movie has a fair number of detractors, or people for whom it simply had no impact. They're crazy, of course, but that's ok. That's their trip. For me, whenever I see a horror movie for the first time, I try my best not to be cynical or jaded. Maybe I'm a simpleton, I don't know...but I try very hard to be a clean slate, to get in the mindset of my ten-year-old self, where anything and everything can be scary, where that little noise I might have heard might just be something waiting to get me. In other words, I try to get sucked in to the moment as much as possible, to let the movie sort of...take over. Sometimes the film still fails miserably and there's nothing you can salvage. But sometimes, every once in a while, a movie will affect me like The Ring- and that...that's just sort of magic, isn't it? A little? If you're not willing to have an innocence about these films, to allow yourself to have the intended reaction, to allow yourself to be scared by them, then really...what else is there? There's really no joy in watching people get killed, even if it's all a put-on. It's the tightening of the gut and the feeling that's the thing.