This weekend, I will be seeing Rings, the second sequel to the 2002 film, The Ring. (Of course, The Ring itself is a remake of the Japanese film, Ringu.) Since it’s been a while since we’ve had a new installment in the Ring franchise, I decided to rewatch the first film tonight.
I have to admit that I had a few concerns before I rewatched The Ring. When I first saw The Ring, it scared me to the extent that I actually had nightmares afterward. Even after all these years, the image of that little girl emerging from the well and then crawling out of the television still makes me shiver. But even with that in mind, I still found myself wondering if The Ring would live up to my vivid memories.
After all, it’s been 14 years since The Ring was released and, since that time, it’s been copied and imitated by literally hundreds of other PG-13 rated horror movies. Would the shocks still be effective, now that I knew they were coming and that I would no longer be surprised to learn that the little girl in the well was actually evil?
Add to that, there was the question of technology. In 2002, it seemed all too plausible that people could be trading back and forth a cursed VHS tape. The Ring was made at a time when DVDs were still considered to be exotic. When The Ring first came out, YouTube didn’t even exist. But today, both VHS tapes and VCRs are artifacts of another era. DVDs have been replaced by Blu-rays and Blu-rays are in the process of being replaced by streaming services. For The Ring to work, you had to be able to relate to people watching a VHS tape. Today, all of these people would be too busy watching cute cat videos on YouTube to fall into The Ring‘s trap.
In short, would The Ring still work in the age of Netflix? And would the film still be as scary as it was when it was first released? These were the question that I found myself wondering as I sat down to rewatch The Ring.
And the answer to both questions is … for the most part, yes.
Here’s the good news. All the important things still work. The performances of Martin Henderson, David Dorfman, Amber Tamblyn, and especially Naomi Watts hold up well. Gore Verbinski’s direction is still effective and, as I rewatched the film, I was surprised to see how many odd and quirky details that Verbinski managed to work into the film. (I especially enjoyed the magic-obsessed desk clerk.) The cursed video was still creepy and compulsively watchable and I still felt uneasy while watching Anna Morgan (played by Shannon Cochran) comb her hair in that mirror. Even more importantly, the little girl in the well, Samara Morgan (Daveigh Chase), was still incredibly frightening.
Admittedly, The Ring is dated and some of its effectiveness has been diluted by imitation. Unfortunately, that’s something that happens with any financially successful horror film. Beyond that, as effective as the entire film was, there were parts of The Ring that did feel undeniably silly. There’s a lengthy scene in which Naomi Watts, while on a ferry, attempts to talk to a horse and the horse reacts by jumping into the ocean. I understand that the scene was probably meant to establish that, as a result of watching that videotape, Watts was now cursed. But, still, I kept wondering why Watts was bothering the horse in the first place. I mean, I love horses too but I know better than to disturb one while on a ferry. As well, the film’s opening sequence — in which Amber Tamblyn is menaced and ultimately killed by Samara — no longer felt as effective as it did when I first saw it, largely due to the fact that it’s been copied by so many other horror films. Imitation may be the ultimate compliment but it does tend to dilute the effectiveness of horror.
But, in the end, The Ring held up well enough. The film’s storyline — characters watch a cursed video tape and then, seven days later, are killed by Samara — was simple but enjoyable. And, when David Dorfman delivered his classic line: “No. You weren’t supposed to help her,” I still felt a chill run down my spine.
Will Rings hold up as well as The Ring?
I’ll find out this weekend!