The last time we saw Naomi Watts, she was having identity problems and sexual repression in the very, very, very odd Oscar-nominee Mulholland Drive. Give her a year and a Golden Globe nomination and she's back in another, though not nearly as much so, odd thriller about a video tape that guarantees your death upon seven days after seeing it.
Watts stars as a Seattle P.I. journalist (I'm from Seattle, so it's always nice to see the rare film based in the area) who learns of a videotape that apparently kills people seven days after they watch it. She thinks it is just an urban legend at first, but when she finds out that four friends who watched "the tape" all died strangely at exactly ten o'clock, in different areas, she looks further into it. She finds the tape, watches it herself, and then gets the phone call: "Seven days." And The Ring proceeds from there.
The Ring is one of those films who's ending is hidden up until the very end. The story is predictable enough (upon viewing the videotape the first time, I was able to figure out what The Ring was, and as the story proceeded I pieced most of everything together long before it was "revealed"), but The Ring is also strange enough to hide how everything is going to end up. I generally like this films, because I get engrossed trying to figure out what is going on without really wanting to know what is going on. The Ring has more than its fair share of creepy, odd moments, and it's refreshing to see almost all of these come from something other horror clichés.
Watts has leading lady written all over her, and after the critical success of Mulholland Drive and the $15 million, #1 opening for this film, she should have no problem grabbing many more roles for years to come. Her character in The Ring is definitely not Oscar-caliber, but it's a huge jump up from your standard horror victim. She, along with the rest of the cast, bring believability to the film as it tiptoes on the line of surrealism.
What really makes or breaks a film like this is the ending, without a doubt. Just about anyone can make a strange film, but things have to be brought together at the end in a realistic and effective manner. Critics are not at all too pleased with the ending of The Ring for one reason or another, but I must say that I was impressed. Much like in Red Dragon, The Ring reaches an apparent finale that is somewhat disappointing (of course, I have read reviews of critics who would have preferred this earlier point be the conclusion to the movie), and then layers on one last "twist." I put "twist" in quotation marks because it is not as much a surprise ending as it is a mild shocker, where the result was cause for some discussion after the movie was over. If I'm analyzing the ending when I leave the theater, then that is a good sign.
The only thing that is never really explained in The Ring is where this videotape actually came from. Everything else is tied up, but why is this videotape in existence, and how did it come to be what it is? Upon a second viewing, maybe I'll see something I missed.
The Ring is a creepy and intriguing thriller that will keep the audience on edge. The ending is hit or miss depending upon the viewer's taste, but even those who are a little discouraged by it may come to be impressed after sitting on it for a few days.
The Ring is a part of a trilogy. Should there be a sequel? Probably not. It's good on its own and shouldn't be tampered with.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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