So I watched “The Ring” while down in Arizona. And also the extended version of the Fellowship of the Ring, which made it a sort’ve Ringtravaganza. And I will now comment, so if you don’t like spoilers, stop reading.
First of all, “Fellowship” was fantastic. The extend-o version fixed every minor quibble I had, and a couple I didn’t know I had until they fixed it. Go, Jackson!
And then there was “The Ring,” which I promised to discuss if I ever saw it.
I went into this suprisingly without many preconceptions, because I got such conflicting reports. Some people were so terrified they had to have their hearts restarted in the theatre, and some people went “That wasn’t scary.” I heard references to the terrifying horror of the Horse Scene and references to how not-very-scary the Horse Scene was. Lots of people went on about how cryptic it all was and you never knew what was going on.
I gotta say right now, I didn’t find it very scary, or very cryptic.
It was, however, quite well put together. It was nicely constructed, the cinematography was good, they hit many excellent horror conventions, they had the obligatory twist in the tail, and it was overall quite a well done movie.
It just wasn’t that scary. Or cryptic.
Now, I myself, upon being told that a video will kill me in a week, say, “That’s nice,” and lock the thing in the file cabinet in case I need to off someone. I don’t go watch it. I realize that many people are driven by insatiable curiousity, but I look at it this way–there’s no way ANY video ever made is interesting enough to be worth risking my life for, let alone a five minute black and white short of a chick brushing her hair in the mirror. Nor am I the sort of skeptic who feels a need to prove that videos can’t kill people, because I have no great emotional stake in proving my superiority to video tapes. I am comfortable in my dominance over a hunk of plastic. It doesn’t gnaw at me.
But we’ll let that go. She watches the video for the same reason that the Eagles don’t fly the Ring to Mt. Doom, and Elrond didn’t trip Isiludur into the volcano three thousand years ago–because otherwise it’d be a really short flick. However, even assuming that I do watch the video for whatever reason, if I suspect that it kills people, I do not leave it in the VCR so that small children/visitors/babysitters can watch it by accident. This is only common sense.
But leave all that aside, and get to the backstory. Small child is psycho and psychic, (always a winning combination) and can burn thoughts into people’s heads or images into film/wood/whatever. She drives her mother insane. She’s jealous of her dad’s attention to the horses, one threw her off as a kid, and since Dad has locked her in the barn, they keep her up at night, so she drives ’em insane so that they all drown themselves. Finally, Mom drowns the kid in a well, where she stays alive for seven days. Her unhappy and rather hostile ghost burns various cryptic stuff into a video, which gets distributed via the resort built over the well (which is conveniently not filled in, despite building codes) and goes after the people who watch it, because the girl’s inherently a sadist and wants to hurt people.
It’s complicated, I’ll give you, but I fail to see the cryptic part. I mean, do I really need the main character to stand and declaim “She must have been driving the horses crazy!”? No, I have critical thinking skills, I can do this myself.
The horse scene didn’t scare me, probably because I’m one of THOSE people, who spend the whole scene thinking “My, that horse is getting quite impressive traction on a concrete deck. And he lands the jumps so well, too.” In reality, that horse would probably be splayed all over the floor with broken legs and skinned knees, but we’ll let that go. I also am not stupid enough to try to pet a strange horse that’s freaking out, being that’s a good way to get bitten. If the horse is stomping around wild-eyed, don’t put your hand in there, dummy. The vet I watched it with informed me that horse trailers simply can’t be kicked open like that because they’re designed specifically to withstand any abuse a horse can dish out–the horse could dash itself to pieces on the inside before the door would open. So the horse scene was a bit of a disappointment for me, all in all. A little tense, sure, but not some kind of soul-sucking moment of horror.
The twist at the end was nice, and saved it from the laying-the-vengeful-ghost-to-rest cliche. The monochrome chick coming out of the TV was genuinely spooky. But all in all, it just wasn’t that terrifying, and I slept the sleep of those untroubled by homicidal video tapes. Part of it might have been that they tried to do the “The video that kills people is…the one you just finished watching!” thing on the DVD, which I find terribly trite. Then again, I also get pissed off when characters in books do that “We’re in a book!” thing. Don’t get me started on Piers Anthony. And part of it was probably that even assuming it was all true and there was a terrifying Video Of Death circulating, so what? Just don’t watch the thing, problem solved. (And while I’m on the topic, how come nobody ever moves OUT of haunted houses, or sold Christine for scrap?)
So, all in all, it gets the Ursula “Better Than Cujo” award, which isn’t saying much, since given a roll of 9 mm and sufficient time and laxatives, I could concievably crap a better movie than “Cujo.” (I’m sure the book was better.) But it was pretty good. It was well constructed, and a decent way to kill a few hours, but not the scariest movie ever made. I dunno why so many people were terrified by it. However, it did not infuriate me in the way that “Blair Witch” or “Signs” did, so I give it an opposable digit up.