Getting started: The Ring

The Ring
2002
Dir: Gore Verbinski
Rating: 4 / 5 spooky circles

Let me say loud and clear: I have never liked horror movies. I never understood the appeal of spending two hours a little anxious at best, and straight-up terrified at worst, just to feel lucky to be alive when it’s over. There are so many other things I could do with those hours! And none of them involve being near tears!

So when D asked me if I had seen any American remakes of Japanese horror movies like The Ring, The Grudge, or Dark Water, obviously he got a resounding no. My only previous encounter with The Ring was in high school — I was on a coach bus en route to an orchestra competition (#nerdalert) and someone thought it was a good idea to put The Ring on for a bus of captive high school students. I made it through the first 15 minutes before my fight-or-flight instincts kicked in. I’m always team flight, but since I was speeding down an interstate in a bus, my body took over where my brain was too busy panicking — I fell soundly asleep for the next two hours, and woke up to credits rolling. Thanks, defense mechanisms!

I’ve often wondered, does that mean I will automatically fall asleep when encountered with an actual threat? Is that really the best defense my primordial brain has to offer?

Different thoughts for a different blog.

Anyway! As part of this movie-broadening experience, I am trying to watch more horror movies, and we’re testing how hard I can squeeze D’s hand and how fast I can bury my head in his shoulder when things start to get real. (For the record, it’s a really serious squeeze, and a lightning fast head-bury.) Despite my clearly-stated fear of horror movies, D was shocked I had not even seen The Ring! So on the list it went, and we watched it a couple weeks ago.

Here’s what I thought —

Big picture, I was surprised by how much I genuinely enjoyed The Ring. It was incredibly spooky and suspenseful, but it lacked the kind of “unexpected sh*t jumping out at you at unexpected moments” scares that I absolutely hate. Instead, it messes with us a little — the opening scene dives right into the killer-video-urban-legend setup — but then the scares take a back seat as we get the plot set up, so that by the time it gets REAL SCARY, it feels like the terrifying things happening are natural next steps to the story progression, rather than Scary Plot Points being forced on us and making us jump without really engaging.

I think it’s important for you to know that I never, ever see the twist in movies. One of my best friends majored in film studies, and she and D both see the twist 5–10 minutes into a given movie. I’m left gasping at the big reveal, no matter how clearly it was telegraphed. This might be a choice on my part — I like going for the ride with the characters, learning new things as they do, feeling mystery and confusion right when the director wants me to, with catharsis right on cue. I get more of an escape that way — I’m more in the world of the movie, and less still here in my own.

Given my lack of twist or plot foresight, I went right along with Rachel and her son as things started to go badly, then go worse, people kill themselves horribly, and it becomes clear that they are both inexorably wrapped up in a problem bigger and older than themselves, doomed to carry it forward. I enjoyed the journey, and was scared to the bones without wanting to scream or throw the laptop across the room — I just wanted to know what was going to happen next, which I think is the ideal state of movie-watching, no?

When we finished the movie, the sun was setting (shoutout lazy Saturday afternoons!) and D had to go out. I was INCREDIBLY RELUCTANT to be home alone — what if that effing video started playing on my TV in my empty house with no one to witness me?! — but I felt a little safer after a couple episodes of The West Wing, and that tells me two things: the movie was good enough to get under my skin, but not so terrifying that I couldn’t shake it. I’m not ashamed to add that as I re-read the movie’s IMDb page tonight, alone in my house, before starting this post, I got myself pretty spooked again. But it’s nothing that a couple episodes of Shark Tank can’t fix. (Right? Right??)

Iconic? Definitely — I 100% understand why this movie was a big deal, even without having a wider horror movie context. It plays on essential human fears rather than external scares, which makes it a lot harder to shake.
Re-watchable? Maybe. The only hesitation is whether I want to be deeply creeped out for hours again.
Favorite moment? The last shot — since I hadn’t anticipated the circular (dare we say ring-like?!) nature of the curse, having it all come crashing down on me as the movie ended was pretty powerful.
Hated? The old man bathtub suicide — you know what I mean.