During a weekend break at a cabin by the woods, a quartet of teenagers view the contents of a videotape. Within seven days, all are dead, including Katie, niece of investigative journalist Rachel Keller (Watts). Following a request from her grieving sister, Rachel sets out to establish the connection between the unexplained fatalities and the ultimate in black market videos which now threatens the lives of Rachel, her son( Dorfman) and ex-partner Noah (Henderson). All three have watched the tape and when Noah encounters televisual evidence that the curse affects him, a race against the clock ensues to locate the director of this short film about killing.
Those who have yet to encounter Hideo Nakata's superb Ringu (1998) may well judge Verbinski's remake to be a first-rate chiller, though direct comparisons with Nakata's film reveals a stranger-than-usual hybrid, containing note-for-note scenes and lack lustre additions that fail, in virtually every instance, to insert anything of substance. Would-be crowd-pleasing references to The Exorcist, Carrie, Scream, Psycho and The Sixth Sense can be put down to the usual larder raiding antics employed by many directors, but it's more difficult to forgive Verbinski for diluting almost every scrap of fear and forboding: qualities that Ringu has in spades. The new video footage is, quite simply, a farce; the character of Samora (the 'new' Sadako) instills no fear, unlike her chilling predecessor; Aidan Keller (the son) inspires irritation rather than sympathy, and is far removed from the real latchkey kid of the original, while Rachel's estranged ex-partner suffers most from a script that veers away from what should be the central theme of the breakup of the family. Naomi Watts is easy on the eye as the heroine- once again doing her Nancy Drew bit- but her considerable thespian talents are in no way stretched here.
Add to this a lame subplot involving horse breeding, a ridiculous suicide, the absurd location of the infamous well and a botched sequence where Rachel hunts for Samora (would that this scene had ended up in Dark Water territory) and we can only join Verbinski in limping to a finale which spells out the solution several times in block capitals.
Of course, the real litmus test is whether The Ring works in its own right for those yet to experience the full-on terror of the original. Box office figures and word-of-mouth suggest it does: more grist to a Hollywood mill that will continue to suffocate fresh ideas in favour of the easy option. Maybe we get the cinema we deserve.
Born Gregor Verbinski, this visually inventive director got his start in advertising before making his feature debut in 1997 with the anarchic comedy Mousehunt. He helmed the critically-maligned thriller The Mexican and hit horror remake The Ring, while swashbuckling epic Pirates of the Caribbean, with Johnny Depp, spawned a multi-million dollar franchise. He left that after the third instalment to make his first animation, the comedy Western Rango which he followed with a live action one, mega-flop The Lone Ranger, then another flop, the horror remake A Cure for Wellness. Verbinski was also creator of Budweiser's frog TV ad campaign.
Because it's structurally so faithful to the original there was no element or surprise or suspense for me... but I did think it was superbly shot and competently crafted. It's a strong story to begin with, but they really made a mistake with the video itself... the chillingly brief fragments of the original's has been changed in a far-too-long student film complete with squirming severed finger and crawling bugs. And any kid that calls his mother by her first name instead of 'mum' deserves to die horribly.