Welcome, one and all, to the October Overlook Madness. This edition will follow the same rules as the ones that came before: 31 Horror movies through the 31 days of October, finishing on Halloween. All of these are first-time watches for me, and the reviews that you’ll read here are my first gut reaction to what I end up seeing in the screen. I am commenting some aspects of the films, how I see them and what I end up thinking about them on Twitter, so if you follow the hashtag #OctoberOverlookMadness you can join the discussion and conversation on the films that I am featuring here, as well as helping me choose the movies that will come in the future.
As always, the daily choices are directed by my personal favorite October/Halloween/Horror project, ‘Cinemassacre’s Monster Madness’, which this year is featuring many kinds of videos as well as putting forward the idea of random, you’d never know what movie you’ll get. But, if the movie they talk about I’ve already seen, I will go to my personal list of films to see and pick one of those so I can move forward with the daily reviews. So, today they featured ‘The Ring’ (2002), and I haven’t seen it, so I watched it and reviewed it below. Enjoy the improvised discussion that James has with Mike here and then come back to read my personal thoughts on this movie.
I must say that while I don’t consider Hideo Nakata’s ‘Ringu’ (1998) as one of the best horror films ever, nor as one of the best Japanese horror films, I do think it’s one that opened some sort of market for the craze that would carry on into the 2000’s and that until now has its repercussions in the market of films and the styles of the directors that initiated it. I do like Nakata’s films, and consider that he made a great trifecta with his two Ringu films as well as his Dark Water, all of them based on novels by Koji Suzuki, that were completely changed from what they originally were, and the story behind these films is so strange and bizarre that I never can cease to be amazed at how much international recognition and fame they got before they became objects of exploitation, as it’s been the case with the later films that have come out like ‘Sadako 3D’ (2012), which treats the mithology as something more akin to a joke, to a world on its own that the film makes reference to, but without actually expanding or making actual use of the pathos of the characters and the story behind them. There are a lot of Ringu related products, a Korean remake, a parallel story, a previous TV adaptation, sequels, spin-offs and prequels, but for most people the Ringu franchise came to their attention through this American remake, directed by Gore Verbinski, which would become known later as the director of the first three Pirate of the Caribbean films.
I have a somewhat personal history with this film, as it came out when I was 12 years old and my cousins and people around me where into the normal phase where they want to watch horror films and be scared and try new things. I wasn’t that kind of kid, and I was immensely scared by horror films that I had never watched before, why? Because I didn’t know better. Now many people would be surprised to know that I am that into horror after practically an entire childhood and adolescence where I avoided every kind of film that was in that spectrum. It wasn’t until I was getting into film, when I was 15-16 years old that I started exploring, and maybe the first honest-to-God horror film that I watched was ‘Psycho’ (1960), and I guess that’s what made me get into it so much until this day, but I digress. When this movie came out, everyone was talking about how incredibly scary and horrifying it is, and even one day in the house of my cousins they decided to watch this film on a pirated DVD that they had bought, and I absolutely refused to even look at the TV for one second during the entire time, so when I watched it today, obviously some images I knew because they’ve become so familiar with time, but also the plot was something that I even could predict because I could hear the movie as they saw it, but since the sound wasn’t scary I didn’t have a problem with that. Now that I see it, I see there’s really no reason to the fuzz, as the entire film bases its reputation as “one of the scariest” in two powerful images that aren’t as powerful now: the shock-cut to the girl in the closet, and the ending, which has become a figure that may go down to history only because it’s more known from its American version (it’s practically the same structure of the scene in the Japanese version), but the rest… the rest isn’t particularly spooky nor frightening, but it’s really well made and has a beautiful cinematography that sets it apart from other horror films from the same period, mostly because it was the first of its kind.
The blue-gray tinted style of cinematography later became a staple in American horror and thus became somewhat annoying as it didn’t exactly correspond to the reason behind it in this movie, that it was to assimilate the style of the VHS video that Samara uses to haunt and spread her message across in her killing ways. The editing is somewhat original, though it overuses the rapid succession of somewhat subliminal imagery that makes it nauseating but also a bit too “hip” for it to be taken as something frightening or even serious. There are tidbits here and there that make you think that this was mostly played straight by the actors and the presence of Naomi Watts does bring weight and seriousness to the endeavor, but at the same time I can’t help thinking that the plot itself about a video that transcends the logic of physics and becomes supernatural (and that horse scene, Jesus) brings out such calmed and collected reactions and performances. I’d be freaking out if half of the things that I see happen here would happen to me, and I guess that’s more my fault than the movie’s, but I guess I still have my sense of wonderment and my anxious need of being constantly surprised intact that I want other people (and characters) to behave the same way.
I must say that I’m glad that I finally had the chance to watch this remake after all these years that it had been presented to me, but I don’t see myself watching it again ever. It’s an ok movie that has its place in the history of cinema as the starter of a trend and as an incentive for the other new wave of horror from Asia that had already been undergoing. What did happen when I saw this was that I had an incredible urge to watch the Hideo Nakata films once again, just to compare and see how this plot could’ve worked better in the Japanese context in which it originally was born.