U.S. Release Date: October 18, 2002
Distributor: DreamWorks
Director: Gore Verbinski
Writer: Ehren Kruger
Producer: Roy Lee (executive), Michelle Weisler (executive)
Composer: Hans Zimmer
Cast: Naomi Watts, Martin Henderson, Brian Cox, Adam Brody
Running Time: 1 hour and 49 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (thematic elements, disturbing images, language and some drug references)

Ring Around Naomi
by Scott Holleran

You watch the video, you die in seven days. If only the rest of The Ring, the highly touted DreamWorks release starring Naomi Watts (Mulholland Drive), were as simple as the movie's horror premise. Instead, The Ring is bogged down by mixed themes and multiple climaxes.

Based on the popular Japanese movie Ringu that combines horror with mysticism, writer Ehren Kruger and director Gore Verbinski have created a stylish thriller that strives for but never achieves classic ghost storytelling.

Beginning with two teenaged girls who dare to doubt the legend, The Ring claims its first victims early. The opening scene establishes the sequence—watch video, answer phone, death in seven days—without revealing too much. The twist is a clever set-up. For the next video watcher, the mystery lies in changing one's condemned fate, not in anticipating random acts of violence.

Newspaper reporter Rachel (Watts) becomes interested in the legend because one of those teenagers, her niece, is dead and no one knows why. Naturally, Rachel starts by watching the video. The sequence begins and, suddenly, Rachel is literally working on deadline. Unfortunately, her quest for the elusive truth about the video, and her own impending doom, is a series of clues—a girl in the video, blurred photographs, horses, a fly, a lighthouse, and a totally pointless character played by veteran actress Jane Alexander—that is ultimately incoherent.

After spending over an hour showing Rachel as relatively logical, even skeptical, The Ring's first revelation is arbitrary. Having abandoned the main character's finest quality, her intelligence, The Ring presents an unrelenting string of new crises, each one less interesting than the last.

Through it all, Rachel also tries to be a good mother, though her son, (played by David Dorfman), who refuses to call her Mom for some unknown reason, is a seriously troubled boy. He's the latest in Hollywood's disturbing trend of projecting dark, malevolent sensibilities on to children.

The only one having fun—Rachel's ex-boyfriend, Noah (a playful Martin Henderson, whose mocking presence is the best part)—becomes one more plot twist to pile on to a struggling script.

Watts is unconvincing as the crusading reporter. She is harsh where she should be determined, which makes her transformation into tender loving mother an abrupt change that finally silences her as the movie's voice of reason.

Of course, almost everyone becomes doomed by the video—which is a stream of images accompanied by a hissing sound, making it perfect for MTV—and, between many shots of dreary Seattle, nothing makes much sense.

The Ring, which is too structured for those who seek to be bombarded by noise, blood and smut, finally offers a variation on a favorite idea in Hollywood: the world is ruled by bad forces completely out of one's control.

The marketing line for The Ring is: "Before you die, you see the ring." Unless one's idea of a scary movie is more "blurry witch project" than Hitchcock, the proper response is: not if you value two hours of your life.

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