"Everyone will suffer"

The premise of The Ring - that watching a particular videotape results in your death seven days later - is such a silly, preposterous notion that the movie sounds like a genre spoof, along the lines of Scary Movie, or Don't Be A Menace.

But The Ring has serious intentions, so must be taken seriously.

The film begins with a typical horror-style opening that establishes what the tape does, resulting in the obligatory first scare/death of a teenage girl, and her friend in the local pysch ward. Family friend Rachel (Naomi Watts), a local newspaper reporter, starts poking around, discovers the tape, watches it, gets the creepy phone call announcing "seven days", makes a copy, leaves one sitting around where her son ends up watching it, and becomes quite determined to get to the bottom of things. I'll not bother to go into what she discovers, as that's the real joy of this picture, the unravelling of what's going on.

I read one opinion on the structure of The Ring's story long before ever watching it. The concept presented was that, by giving us more and more information about what was going on, the film only made itself less scary, as people are naturally less afraid of what they understand. Now, having seen the film, I have to disagree. This movie is, first of all, not just a horror flick - you can argue that it's just as much a mystery, centered on deciphering an unknown situation, and similarly, there aren't that many thrillers where we don't understand the nature of the threat by the end of the film. While the studio certainly played up the horror elements, it's unfair to force the film to conform to one particular concept of a genre. This is not simple horror, and the threat carries through pretty much to the end.

Horror, I suppose, requires a suspension of disbelief off the bat to really work right. The concept of a particular videotape having such power is quite silly to me, but I was able to push aside such thoughts for most of the film because of how well it was made. The tape is certainly not the only silly little thing, but it's the most important - if you can get past that, everything else is at least as credible.

The Ring feels like a modern update on the classic horror concept. As such, they've done a pretty good job. No, it's not in the top tier in terms of scare-factor, but it has its moments. I would like to have seen more explanation, actually, but perhaps it's good to have something left to gnaw on when it's over. Altogether not bad, and much better than I expected.

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