2002’s The Ring may have been a remake of Japan’s infamous Ringu, but director Gore Verbinski made the film his own – and in the process brought J-horror to American shores. The Ring prompted many Americanized versions of Japanese films like The Grudge and Shutter, but none of them matched the palpable sense of atmosphere and dread that came with this film, aided by a depressingly grim color tone – it’s pretty much always shaded in blue – and the killer videotape itself, a startling series of seemingly disconnected abstract images set to an eerie noise soundtrack. Below, we’ll talk about what makes The Ring a classic and why it took hold with American audiences, and we’ll also discuss what makes it a creepy good time for Halloween.
What makes it a classic?
Part of The Ring‘s charm is its pervasive sense of terror, a compelling feature that has a set time limit. The convenience of the video tape’s warning – that the viewer has seven days to hopefully get their affairs in order before Samara (Daveigh Chase) comes to get them – gives the audience a finishing point for the film’s story. If Rachel (Naomi Watts) doesn’t figure out the secret behind the video before her seven days are up, she’s dead.
But it’s not just Rachel who suffers for her curiosity. Her son Aidan (David Dorfman) and ex-husband Noah (Martin Henderson) are pulled into the danger, and from there The Ring becomes a lesson for Rachel not just in time management but also about her actions and the consequences they have on others. The Ring begins with Rachel investigating her niece’s mysterious death, basically exploiting that event in order to get a juicy story about a supposedly cursed video tape. She’s late to pick up her son from school; she puts journalism above integrity. And similarly, Noah is pushed into the same type of lesson – he’s also searching for the answers, not only for himself but to protect a son that he neglected to acknowledge for most of his life. Parenthood is a strong theme within The Ring, and Verbinski’s continual return to that idea – especially as it relates to Samara – makes the ending stick with viewers.
But one also can’t discount how well Verbinski handles the scares, too, because he often borrows the best moments of J-horror and twists it subtly. Unlike The Grudge, The Ring has a universal feel to it – this could be set in Japan, or America, or Spain, or France. The area doesn’t matter; the nationality doesn’t matter. All that matters is the horrific events that preceded the making of the video tape and the eventual secrets that Rachel unearths.
Contemporary viewers will still find The Ring creepy. The day countdown adds tension to an already eerie plot about a video tape one could accidentally watch and still get punished for doing so. But more than that, The Ring is a classic because of its continual questioning of parenthood and responsibility, all leading to a horrifying moment where a parent decides to kill her child instead of protecting her.
Is it good for Halloween?
I think we’ve all had an experience where we’ve been unsure whether to watch something. That may be as mundane as a scary movie as a youngster, or it could be as extreme as a disturbing real act of violence like terrorist massacres. But the feeling is there, that in some way this is a video you’re just not ready for. That suspense is mirrored in The Ring, where characters’ curiosities get the best of them even when they have that subconscious feeling that the videotape should remain unplayed.
So yes, it is good for Halloween, and it’s ultimately a scary film regardless of how much one can relate to the taboo videotape. The makeup effects are good, and Verbinski doesn’t go overboard with the jump scares; instead he relies on a slow build that makes The Ring much smarter than its contemporaries.