English-language remakes of successful foreign films are rarely a good idea, but Gore Verbinski's close do-over of the phenomenally popular and absolutely terrifying Japanese ghost story RING (1998) is a shivery surprise: a frighteningly good horror movie with enough solid scares to freeze the blood of ardent fans and newcomers alike. It begins with the mysterious death of 16-year-old Seattle high-schooler Katie (Amber Tamblyn), found in a closet with her face horribly contorted; whatever killed Katie also scared her friend Becca (Rachael Bella) so badly that she now wanders the halls of a mental institution like a zombie. When Katie's aunt, reporter Rachel (Naomi Watts), starts poking around, Katie's friends tell her about a cursed videotape that supposedly kills anyone who watches it. The phone rings the moment the tape is over, the story goes, and a voice on the other end warns that you have seven days to live; a week later, you die. Rachel brushes off the tale as an urban legend, but the deeper she digs, the more sense it makes: How else to explain the fact that everyone who watched the tape with Katie died at exactly the same time? Rachel drives up to the lodge where the ill-fated teens spent the weekend before their deaths, and finds an unmarked videocassette in the front office. She pops it into the VCR and watches as bizarre images flicker across the screen: an eclipse; a woman brushing her hair; a box of twitching, severed fingers; a spectral little girl (Daveigh Chase) whom we later learn is named Samara. The tape abruptly ends and the phone rings; "Seven days," the voice whispers, and the countdown begins. Watts does great work here — she's got that mounting panic thing down pat — and the constant Seattle rain supplies an appropriately dank and airless mood. In simplifying the story (which spawned a series of novels, a manga, three movies and a TV series in Japan) writer Ehren Kruger (SCREAM 3) has also ironed out a number of kinks in the original screenplay while adding a number of creepy embellishments. The ending, however, is something of a disappointment: By toning down a final act of desperate cruelty, Kruger and Verbinski rob the finale of that resounding ring of doom, the stroke that insured the original a permanent place under your skin.
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- Released: 2002
- Rating: PG-13
- Review: English-language remakes of successful foreign films are rarely a good idea, but Gore Verbinski's close do-over of the phenomenally popular and absolutely terrifying Japanese ghost story RING (1998) is a shivery surprise: a frighteningly good horror movie… (more)