Monday, October 27, 2014

Why I like The Ring

Why I like The Ring

1) The first time I saw the movie, I remember getting ready to leave once Rachel had discovered Samara's body and laid it to rest. She's back with her son Aiden and all appears well. Her son asks her what happened to Samara, Rachel responds that she helped the dead little girl find peace, and Aiden responds with terror. He says "you weren't supposed to help her," and ice cubes slid down my spine. The scene immediately afterward, where Samara kills Aiden's father, was one of the scariest moments in 2000s-era horror. Everything I knew about ghosts had been thrown out the window.  We were in dangerous territory.

2) The movie is gorgeous. It's got a watched-out gloomy blue and gray tone that reminds me of old Gothic horror films. I grew up in foggy San Francisco and the atmosphere of the film reminded me of home. Melancholy coastal towns work particularly well in creating a Gothic atmosphere, which fits the ghost story.

3) Horror works best when it's simple. If you watch this tape, you die seven days later. The only way to stay alive is to get someone else to watch the tape. Otherwise, a drowned girl crawls out of your TV and kills you.

4) The interesting thing about The Ring is that Rachel isn't actually that great of a mother. Horror fiction is full of overly caring, overly diligent parents and, while Rachel will do anything to keep her son safe from Samara's wrath, we get the sense that she's too preoccupied in her own life. Aiden refers to his mother by her first name, he's able to do a lot of things for himself, and he has the kind of self-assured maturity of someone who has to a lot of shit on his own. It creates a unique family dynamic, especially after we meet Aiden's father.

5) The movie is unrelentingly grim. The story is structured like a mystery, and deciphering the enigma of Samara's life makes her both sympathetic and terrifying. When you finally learn what happened to her, you realize why she will never stop hurting people.

6) The Ring has two of the most effective jump scares I've ever seen. I'm a sucker for frightening faces and the wreckage Samara leaves behind are among the most terrifying corpse effects I've ever seen. I imagine they're supposed to be waterlogged bodies left down in at the bottom of the well, but that doesn't account for the distended jaws. I also really like Noah's death. Rachel runs to save him, finds his body, and screams. We don't see what she sees until the big reveal later on, when his face is the final one we settle on.  It remains one of the most disturbing images ever captured on film.

7) The movie terrified me more than most horror films because it felt inescapable: Samara's vengeance was so lethal that the only way you could escape it was to feed other people to her. Samara looked like something otherworldly. Watching her crawl out of the well remains one of the greatest horror images of all time.

Conclusion: The Ring reprogrammed the way I viewed horror. It broke a lot of my expectations, it approached the genre with intelligence, and it created a monster that seeped into the dank basement of my subconscious. I saw Samara every time I turned off the lights. The Ring brought me back to my childhood fear and I'll love it forever.

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