Hollywood remakes of foreign hit movies are famous for being flops. This won't be one of them. The adaptation by Ehren Kruger is intelligent. The performances by Naomi Watts and Martin Henderson are intense and charming. The director Gore Verbinski (The Mexican, Mousehunt) overcompensates with audience-friendly flashbacks and memory tags to keep the plot from choking on its own complexity.

In the Japanese original, the mystery of the killer video tape remains strange and terrifying throughout. In the American version, too much needs to be explained, as if mystery alone belongs in the X-Files. This desire to make sense of the inexplicable dilutes fear. By rationalising the supernatural, disbelief is extended beyond breaking point.

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This is a ghost story with a technological twist. Take the theme of the demonic child and match it with the terror of the spirit that cannot rest. Make a short video film, full of surreal images, some of them horrific. Leave it lying around in an upstate hunting lodge.

Four teenagers on a wild weekend find it, watch it. The telephone rings. A girl's voice says, "Seven days." That means, seven days to live. The aunt of one of them, a journalist called Rachel Keller (Watts), follows up the story and looks into the urban myth. She finds the video, makes a copy, watches it. The phone rings.

Rachel is different from the stereotypical slasher flick heroine, personified by Sarah Michelle Gellar. She's highly strung, a single mother and blonde - everyone in this movie is blonde, except those on the video tape. Also, she smokes, which is unheard of these days, and hasn't much time for blokes. She's not lesbian, just lacks respect for the male gender.

She seeks the help of Noah (Henderson), the father of her child, who is a photographer and knows about videos. He allows himself to be dragged in and becomes useful on the odd occasion. He's more than cheesecake, however, and balances Rachel's aggressive paranoia.

The story behind the story, of an idyllic marriage on an island where the girl child is brought, only to be torn asunder by the death of horses, is a movie in itself. The race against time, seven days to uncover the mystery and destroy the power of the tape, is difficult to take seriously, because there is no obvious goal, no way in which to solve it - whatever it is - and, in the end, the shocks reverberate around an empty drum.

Reviewed on: 20 Feb 2003
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The Ring packshot
Remake of Japanese horror film of a killer video tape and a demonic ghost child.
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Director: Gore Verbinski

Writer: Ehren Kruger, based on the film, Ringu, directed by Hideo Nakata

Starring: Naomi Watts, Martin Henderson, David Dorfman, Brian Cox, Jane Alexander, Lindsay Frost, Amber Tamblyn, Rachael Bella, Daveigh Chase, Shannon Cochran

Year: 2002

Runtime: 115 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US/Japan


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