Videodrone

The Ring: based on the novel of the same name by Koji Suzuki and the Japanese film of the same name by Hiroshi Takahashi, adapted by Ehren Kruger; directed by Gore Verbinski; starring Naomi Watts (Rachel), Martin Henderson (Noah), David Dorfman (David), Brian Cox (Richard Morgan), jane Alexander (Dr. Grasnik), Lindsay Frost (Ruth) and Shannon Cochran (Anna Morgan) (2002): AKA, the remake that launched a thousand Hollywood remakes of Asian horror movies. If you watch a short film on a videotape, you die seven days later!

Some judicious editing might have occluded the film’s central problem, which is that beneath its endless investigation and exposition of the ’cause’ of the central haunting, nothing really makes any sense. To cite one spoiler-free example, much of the plot hinges on somebody building something on top of something else in a way never before seen on Earth so as to supply one of the movie’s ‘A-ha!’ moments.

To cite another, Naomi Watts, as the film’s protagonist, launches an investigation of why certain life-threatening eerie things are happening because…um, she’s a reporter? Given that the supernatural is confirmed roughly 20 minutes into the movie, Watts might be expected to find out if there’s a way to stop a ghost. Or she could investigate the ghost’s origins because she’s got nothing better to do for the next week. At the end of the week, the ghost will kill her. So what the Hell, let’s investigate the ghost’s origins. Because if there’s one thing we’ve learned from horror movies, it’s that knowing the origin of a homicidal supernatural being always allows one to defeat said being.

Gore Verbinski’s direction occasionally produces interesting imagery, much of it from the music-video school of the Prettily Photographed Surreal. Watts is fine in the lead role. As is revoltingly standard in Hollywood movies of all shapes and sizes, her status as a devoted career woman makes her morally suspect, and perhaps may even be thematically linked to her ‘punishment’ by supernatural forces.

And the laborious connecting-the-dots to explain everything about the spooky videotape (which still isn’t nearly as spooky as Un Chien Andalou, any number of David Lynch sequences, or several dozen music videos I can think of) is an exercise in wasted energy. They’ve got a homicidal ghost, and the filmmakers seem to be more worried about whether it’s realistic for said ghost to be able to make a videotape. Oh, brother. Not recommended.

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