Do people really have that much of a problem with subtitles?
A few years ago, a truly disturbing film came out of Japan called 'Ringu'. Based on a huge selling novel, it told a tale of an urban legend about a videotape that resulted in the death of anyone who dared to watch it. Wonderfully simple in it's setup, it demanded intelligence from it's audience as it slowly revealed it's secrets with an unflinching sense of foreboding. So successful was it, that it spawned a sequel and a prequel.
And, now, it's also spawned a Hollywood remake...
Naomi Watts stars as Rachel, a journalist who begins an investigation into the aforementioned videotape after her niece dies, reportedly of fright, seven days after viewing it. After landing herself the said tape and watching it herself (purely in the interests of research, I guess!), she realises that the legend is very real and finds herself with just a week in which to solve the mystery of the tape's origins before she too becomes a victim.
Now, if there's one thing Hollywood execs love more than a string of pointless sequels, it's to take a tried and tested formula from overseas and give it the American makeover. They've been doing it for years with varying degrees of success; films as diverse as 'The Magnificent Seven', 'My Father, The Hero', 'The Birdcage' and last year's 'Insomnia' all started life as European or Asian films that found their way across the Atlantic and into the vision of millions of popcorn chomping movie goers - and I'm pleased to report that, in this case, it's fair to say that the yanks haven't done a particularly bad job of the remake. Director, Gore Verbinski and screenwriter, Ehren Kruger have given themselves a bit of levity by deviating from the original film. For sure, the setup is the same and the final denouement is (more or less) the same as 'Ringu', but the middle third of the movie takes a different approach entirely to explain tapes origins.
Quite why this approach was deemed necessary is something of a mystery to me but I shan't complain as it's in this portion of the movie that the fabulous Brian Cox appears. One of my favourite actors, he simply steals the entire movie in what is nothing more than a glorified cameo; infusing a small, but very key, role with such depth and pathos that you wish he'd been in it from the very first reel. But then this is, to all intents and purposes, a horror film and depth of character plays a very distant second fiddle to tension and shocks and Verbinski acquits himself admirably in this department. Not attempting to match the original for a pure sense of dread throughout each and every scene, 'The Ring' owes more to the formula of traditional thrillers as Rachel races against time to unlock the secrets of the tape before she too falls victim to it. Along the way we are treated to the requisite jumps and jolts that we've come to expect from Hollywood horror films of recent times before a nice, wrapped up ending.
And that's the real problem here. The ending is, for my taste, a little too clinical and tidy - even managing to completely misinterpret the title of the movie entirely (there is a reason the original was called 'Ring' and not 'THE Ring' - answers on a postcard to the usual address...). Having said that, there are more than enough images here to cause you an uneasy night's sleep and it's a good a psychological horror as you're likely to see all year.