Reviewed By MP Bartley
Posted 11/01/02 05:52:25

"Be careful with this one Hollywood..."
4 stars (Worth A Look)

...cos it's damn scary and it sure as hell doesn't need a ham-fisted remake. Whether the remake is a botched job is another review however, as we're just looking at the Japanese original here.

You know the kind of horror movies that make you view everyday occurences or items in a new, suspicious light? How 'The Shining' made anyone who later had to walk down a long hotel corridor by themselves just that little bit more nervous? How 'The Blair Witch Project' made camping their least ideal choice of holiday for unsuspecting cinemagoers?

You can add 'Ring' to that list. Because it makes the hiss and white static of a tv screen un-naturally threatening in a way that even 'Poltergeist' couldn't manage.

Reiku is a young journalist who has suffered a death in the family. Her young niece has been found dead, her face contorted in fear, cause of death unknown. What's more disturbing is that it's not a one off. A spate of similiar deaths has been afflicting the local teenagers. The one thing they all have in common is that they have all partaked in an urban legend. Specificially, a videotape of mysterious images has been doing the rounds. Anyone who watches it then receives a phone call telling them that they'll die in a weeks time. And die they do. Leaving Reiku and sceptical ex-husband Ryuji to investigate the origin of the tape.

If Gore Verbinski's remake can capture just half of the atmospherics, then it'll be twice as scary as your average stalk and slash. 'Ring' has a uniquely creepy and haunting feel that'll make you leave the lights on at night. Throughout the film, there's a feeling of impending dread that works its way under the skin. This means when the more expected 'jumps' they're so much more effective because the films worked to give them a context and resonance, and not just as a cheap shock.

It also doesn't play out like a slaughterhouse. The onscreen death count is low, but this doesn't diminish the horror, if anything it increases it as the deaths come as more of a shock.

And that's to not even mention one truly great physically-cower-and-gnaw-your-knuckles-moment. Don't let anyone tell you what it is or where any of the scares come from. It's unfair and the best way to watch 'Ring' is to go into it blind. Like a lot of the great horrors, the terror's in the small details such as the half glimpsed images on the tape, or the briefly seen corpses of the teenagers.

No, it's not perfect. The acting's perfunctory and far from outstanding, while some of the revelations and explanations require a huge leap of logic that undoes some of the great work that's already gone on. And it ends on one of those slyly ambigious endings that will leave some frustated.

But the crisp and confident direction coupled to a pace that while far from breathless is never slow, means 'Ring' gives a case of the creeps that will stay with you long after you stop the video and turn the tv off. And then unplug it from the wall. And then move it outside, just in case.

It's debatable where 'Ring' gets its power from. Is it a uniquely Japanese horror or will this urban legend translate anywhere? Time will tell but no matter what the remake turns out like, there'll always be the original. Go on, lend the tape to a friend. See what happens...

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