The Ring

Starring: Naomi Watts, Martin Henderson and Brian Cox
DreamWorks Home Entertainment
RRP: 19.99
Certificate: 15
Available now

A healthy teenage girl's heart stops a week after visiting a holiday cabin. Her boyfriend also dies; an apparent suicide. The girl was close friends with a little boy called Aiden, and his mother, Rachel, learns of the supposed existence of a video, the viewer of which dies seven days later. Curious, as all reporters are, she visits the cabin and watches the video which is constructed of haunting, surreal imagery, some of which involves a little girl. Immediately afterward the phone rings and a voice whispers, "Seven days." Returning with the tape, Rachel discovers her face to be distorted in photographic and film images. Using her ex-husband's video editing equipment reveals a lighthouse at the edge of a frame. Research leads her to an island, and the house of Anna and Richard Morgan. But time is running out for Rachel, as she undergoes a series of vivid dreams and hallucinations. When she catches Aidan watching the video, panic ensues and it becomes even more critical to reveal the backstory of a little girl called Samara...

Although America has created a huge film culture, the presence of which is felt around the world, its track record of foreign film remakes is less than impressive. Thankfully The Ring doesn't fail in quite the same manner, being neither better or worse outright than the original. The Japanese version made quite an impact on the movie scene when it materialised only a few short years ago, and even spawned two lesser sequels. It was a film which transcended the language barrier, and was creepy without seeming to try that hard. The remake follows much of that story scene for scene. It is logically more accessible to a Western audience, and structurally more coherently, although doesn't create anywhere near the same build of tension.

The major deviation surrounds the history of the child at the centre of it all. Originally, her mother was a talented psychic with powers of ESP, becoming famous on the island after successfully predicting an eruption. The girl herself was so aloof and powerful that she was deemed to be a monster. Here we have the mother unable to have a child, and the implication is that the father performed some sort of genetic experiment that resulted in the birth of a girl so unnatural that all the horses panicked, running to the sea where they were drowned. The scene on the ferry, when a horse panics at Rachel's proximity and jumps overboard is more shocking than the rest of the film in its entirety. Perhaps this is because apparent cruelty to animals is distressing, even though it's created by the magic of cinematic illusion.

There is more urgency about the original, accentuated by being stranded on the island during a storm, and later having to hoist up buckets of water from the well, both when time is very much of the essence. What this version does do right is avoid the casting of any big names, which would have instantly destroyed its credibility. I defy anyone not to find The Ring enjoyable. Its exploration of semi-modern technology for the purposes of horror separates it from the multitude of ancient evil and psycho slasher movies. Anyone who has seen the Japanese film might be tempted to avoid this remake all together, which would be a shame because this is pretty much as good.

Extras include a trailer and an interesting edited-together series of vignetted clips and scenes, many of which never made it into the finished cut. On a final note, fate dictated that as I finished watching this DVD the phone rang. My reaction? "I'm not bloody answering that!"

Ty Power

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