Friday, October 05, 2007

Month o' Horror: The Ring

The Ring was viewed on Friday, October 5

In way similar to how "Scream" dissects the very conventions of the sort of slasher film that it aims to be, "The Ring" attacks the very thing that we commonly use to bring those sorts of films into our lives -- the television and, more specifically, video tape.

Of course we don't *all* watch movies on video. Many of us have upgraded to DVD, and there are still the few, the proud, the hardcore, that actually like to experience a movie in the theatre. But videotape is still a cultural phonemenon. It's the technology that brought film into the home, and it's something we can all recognize and relate to. It's that connection that "The Ring" relies on. Its our familiarity with the concept of videotape, and the idea that death could strike at anyone -- ourselves included -- that help to make the film work.

"The Ring" was the first of what became a long line of horror films that had originated in Japan before being remade for American audiences. And for my money, "The Ring" is still the best.

It's not a horror film in the way that most of us are familiar with horror films. It doesn't use a lot of blood or cheap make-you-jump tactics. It's got more of a creepy-vibe going on. A slow simmer of unsettling imagery and and the unrelenting passage of time. In fact, if I had to compare it to an American horror film, it would probably be with Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining" which, much like the ring, relies on a tense atmosphere instead of kinetics or blood-buckets.

Watching "The Ring" on Friday night marked, I believe, the third time I had seen the film, and while I can't say it necessarily gets better with each viewing, it certainly doesn't get any worse. The cinematography maintains a sense of dread and death, while the dreaded videotape of death is still just as unsettling as the first time I saw it.

What might be my favourite part of the film (and there's sort of spoiler here, so consider yourself warned if you're against that sort of thing) is the ending. No, not the ENDING ending, which is fine in and of itself, promising a happy ending for the mother and son at the centre of the story, even while it suggests a far less optimistic ending for, uh, well, the human race, on some level. No, I mean the tease-ending. The one that makes you think it's going to have the cliched, "release the dead girl and she will be at peace and everyone lives happily ever after" sort of ending that, seriously, we're all pretty fucking tired of. But that ending is just a tease, and there's something for nastier waiting for us after the dust has apparently settled.

And that's the sort of thing that a horror movie supposed to do. It's supposed to unsettle us. It's supposed to make us nervous. Good horror movies aren't predictable. Good horror movies work because they give us the feeling that anything can happen, and that no one is safe.

Something "The Ring" accomplishes in spades.

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