The Ring

When seeing horror movies, I’m usually the one sitting in the back who’s been coerced by her mates to come, giving a running commentary about how lame this movie is. And here some random female gets slashed up; here the heroine finally realises who the killer is, even though the rest of us worked it out half an hour ago; here the heroine runs up the stairs, even though we all know that’s a dead end – and whoops, wouldn’t you know, she’s wearing a clingy shirt and no bra.

Except for The Ring. The Ring terrified me. Largely I credit it to the fact it’s never fully explained to us what Samara is or what she does to kill people – a method of “suggest to the audience, don’t explain it word-by-word” that I find refreshing – but also something I credit to the portrayal of the heroine.

Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts) is awesome. She’s a journalist whose teenage niece Katie has just died of a mysterious heart-related death. It just stopped. She digs deeper, and finds a superstitious claim that her death, and the deaths of half a dozen friends at precisely the same time, are linked to them all watching a killer video exactly the week before.

Of course, Rachel doesn’t believe it. I mean, killer video? So she tracks down the offending vid and watches it, except it turns out the story’s true. She’s got a week to live.

And what does she do? Does she sit down and cry and wait for hunky ex Noah (Martin Henderson) to make things right? Nuh-uh. Using her journalist training and what time she’s got left, she delves into the history of the tape, inching closer to a “cure” for the curse as the clock ticks down. When she’s on her last day, she utilises every moment to find answers that will help Noah and their son Aidan – both of whom have seen the tape – continue on in that search. Even when she knows her time is down to the hours and minutes, she searches for answers.

How bloody cool. A woman when, faced with her mortality at the hands of something supernatural and terrifying, does her best to stave it off, first for herself, then for her loved ones and others. Watts is brilliant as coming off as a woman trapped in terrifying circumstances but determined to go down fighting. Unless we’re counting Ripley from the Alien franchise (something I always considered more scifi than horror) then Rachel Keller is definitely my #1 horror heroine.

Comments

  1. says

    It’s horror movies like this that got me watching horror movies. I think 28 Days Later was technically the first one, and I gave that one a chance because it looked sci/fi-y. Then I watched Resident Evil. Then the American version of The Ring. By then I was hooked.

  2. says

    The Ring scared the crap out of me. I couldn’t sleep the night after I watched it, and I was on edge for weeks afterwards. I was also really impressed by the gender portrayal in it, though I wonder how I would feel if I watched it again now (not that I will; I value my ability to sleep without scaring myself half to death too much).

    Just one last comment that doesn’t have to do with the main content of your post, but is there any way you could avoid using words like “lame” (for more information on why “lame” isn’t a good word to use, I’d suggest visiting the links in this thread)? There are a lot of words that are just as good — like stupid, boring, uninteresting, etc — that don’t have the same hurtful history.

  3. scarlett says

    OK I’ll try not to use ‘lame’ anymore, it wasn’t meant to be offensive.

    There are some really good horror movies out there, and they tend to have decent female characters. (Res Evil was a bit dodgy, but The Fly and 28 Days Later were great – wasn’t that fussed on Scarlett from 28 Weeks later, though). Horror movies generally bore me for the reasons I mentioned at the begining of the article, but this one was so well done.

  4. Gategrrl says

    Here’s a definition of Lame, from an online dictionary:

    lame (lām)

    adjective

    crippled; disabled; esp., having an injured leg or foot that makes one limp
    stiff and very painful a lame back

    poor, weak, unconvincing, ineffectual, etc. a lame excuse

    Etymology: ME < OE lama, akin to Ger lahm, ON lami Russ lomat’, to break

    transitive verb

    to make lame

    noun

    Slang a person who is conventional, conservative, old-fashioned, etc.; square

    lame¹ Related Forms
    lamely adverb, lameness noun
    lame² Definition
    lame (lām; Fr lȧm)

    noun

    a thin metal plate
    the thin, overlapping metal plates in a piece of armor

    I think chastising someone for a proper use of a word for overly cooked Political Correctness is a bit much. It’s in the dictionary: there is a valid defintion and use of the word “Lame” as a synonym for “ineffectual”. I’m sure the majority of folks using the word lame as a synonym for ‘this doesn’t work’ are not intentionally dissing on lame people.

  5. says

    From Dictionary.com:

    whore
    –noun
    1. a woman who engages in promiscuous sexual intercourse, usually for money; prostitute; harlot; strumpet.

    English was written by the patriarchy. Not sure their dictionary should be a guide for us. ;)

    “Lame” in the context Scarlett’s using had a twin in the 80’s which no one uses anymore (in the same way): “queer”. Example: “That show is so queer!”

    My friends and I said it all the time. I never connected it with homosexual people, and I don’t think my friends did either.

    But how did people of queer orientations feel hearing it used as an insult to stuff, even if it wasn’t directed at them? If thinking a TV show is “queer” means I think it sucks, then do I think “queer” people suck, too? There’s a definite alienating effect.

    I don’t think it’s excessively politically correct to dump this usage of lame, just like we dumped that usage of “queer”. Also, it’s pretty clear from Tekanji’s link that more than a few people find it hurtful. And finally, I don’t take Tekanji’s remark as chastising – I take it as exposing new information which those of us with able-bodied privilege aren’t going to be aware of until someone points it out.

  6. says

    scarlett: Thanks for always taking my comments in the spirit that they were meant. I appreciate that you’re willing to think about the words that you use in your posts.

    BetaCandy: Exactly. I wasn’t trying to be chastising, I was trying to inform other anti-oppression activists that a word that’s used in common modern vernacular is, in fact, hurtful towards a non-privileged group. Most people don’t know the history of the word, or that it affects non-able-bodied people (much less why), which is why I provided the link as well as my commentary. Women aren’t just made up of able-bodied people; we come in all shapes and varieties, which means that it’s our responsibility to be sensitive about other non-privileged groups.

    Anyway, I don’t want to hijack this thread any further, but I just wanted to say thanks to you both for understanding why I brought the subject up rather than just keeping quiet.

  7. Gategrrl says

    I have found a site that says the word “queer” has been around for hundreds of years: only in the 1920s was it applied to gays (yet another word whose definition has been changed through common usage).

    http://www.mountainpridemedia.org/oitm/issues/2001/aug2001/views02_why.htm

    Certainly I don’t want to come across as an asshat when it comes to vocabulary and what’s hurtful and what’s not – but at some point, any word can become pejorative, then lose its meaning in the general evolution of the language, and then have a small group annoyed with it.

    English was developed through usage – men AND women. Not saying there’s not a lot of anti-female language in English, French or Italian (take your pick, and sorry for the double negative) but…even now a word like “whore” is slowly being changed to include men in that definition. So is slut.

    Okay, I’m done. I’ll drop it. And if I come across someone with a limp who takes offense at a word I say, like “that movie was so lame” without thinking, I’d hope they’d say something.

  8. scarlett says

    OK, I know we agreed to drop it but I was asleep when this exchange happened and I feel I should say something since it was my comment that started it :p

    I remember starting high school in the mid-90s and ‘gay’ was a catch- all for stupid/out of touch/boring, which I guess is just an evolution of ‘queer’ in the 80’s. I never thought in terms of such words being offensive to peopel who apply that word to themselves as a group but it makes sense – as BC said, if you use ‘gay’ or ‘lame’ as slang for ‘stupid’, there’s a logical extention, intended, believed or not, that ‘stupid’ applies to that group collectively.

    In a smaller degree, I can understand it because of the way it’s acceptable for people who’ve just done something chronically stupid to say ‘I’m having a blond moment’.

    Getting back to The Ring – I was having a conversation with BF about it yesterday, and it got me thinking if part of the reason it was so creepy was because the lead character was so believable and well-acted. Whenever I see Scream I think ‘well, duh, why don’t they just leave town for a few days’ but with movies like The Ring, The Fly and 28 Days Later the answer is an obvious ‘cos the trouble will just follow them’. And this comparison just came to me, but in both The Ring and The Fly, the lead characters are journalists and use their professional training to get their way through such awful circumstances.

  9. firebird says

    Thanks for the review Scarlett. I’ve become less interested in horror movies and so I didn’t see this one; I think I’ll look it up next time I’m adding movies to my queue!

  10. MaggieCat says

    I was having a conversation with BF about it yesterday, and it got me thinking if part of the reason it was so creepy was because the lead character was so believable and well-acted.

    I’ve always thought that this held pretty true across the genre. I think it was Joss Whedon who said something to the effect that the best way to create fear of a character is to show that the other characters are afraid of them. But it only works if the other characters are rational, intelligent people, because it’s much less effective to scare dumb people.

    The Ring is one of the few movies that did actually scare me a little (I tend to be hard to scare movie/tv-wise, which is why I rely on scary books) but I can’t entirely separate the story from the circumstances under which I first saw it: I watched it on tv, ending around 2am, and just as the credits rolled, my phone rang. It was a wrong number, but I still had to spend 15 minutes removing the claws from my shoulder that belonged to the cat that had been sleeping peacefully on my lap until we both jumped a foot in the air.

  11. scarlett says

    Haha, a few weeks after I first watched The Ring I got woken up at about 2am because the TV was on and throwing out static. I guess a circut must have overloaded or something, but when you’re disoriented from being suddenly woken up, it’s dark and cold and the TVs just turned itself on and is throwing out static, I don’t think many people can blame me for the thought ‘Samara’s coming’ crossing my mind :p

    Firebird, I’d reccomend 28 Days Later and The Fly too if you haven’t seen them. The basic premise for all three is a little more uncommon that your typical ‘killer on the loose’ storyline but all three have quite strong female leads and left me at least a little rattled. The Saw movies aren’t too bad either – the first one’s the best.

  12. says

    “Haha, a few weeks after I first watched The Ring I got woken up at about 2am because the TV was on and throwing out static.”

    Ha! Me too! (although I think it was afternoon…and I can’t remember why the TV turned to static)

  13. Jennifer Kesler says

    It was a wrong number, but I still had to spend 15 minutes removing the claws from my shoulder that belonged to the cat that had been sleeping peacefully on my lap until we both jumped a foot in the air.

    I can see why that would be memorable, LOL!

    Okay, now that both Scarlett and Mickle have mysterious stories of the TV going to static during this movie, um, I think I’ll sit this one out because I’m already scared. :D

  14. scarlett says

    My experienced happened sometime later, like a few months at least. I was woken up at about 2am and the TV, which was definitely off when I went to bed, was on and throwing out static. I guess there was a power surger or something, but I remember pulling the plug out of the wall and, in my disoriented state, thinking ‘haha Samara, try getting through the TV NOW’ :p But I suppose it says something about the general creepiness of the movie that it crossed my mind over something completely random several months later.

  15. says

    Well, now that my memory has been jogged by talking about this….I should clarify that it definitely wasn’t while watching the movie. In fact, I think it was roughly a week later. Which, if you’ve seen the movie….:)

    There also was a perfectly logical explanation for the static, (hitting the wrong button on the remote?) I just can’t remember what it was for sure.

    But still, the first thing I did when the static came on was look at the clock, and try to remember exactly what day and what time of day it was when I was watched The Ring.

  16. Elethiomel says

    Interestingly, the lead character in the orinal novel by Suzuki Koji was male, but was changed to female for the movie. Similarly the original male lead for Silent Hill was changed to female for the movie. Presumably because Hollywood expects men to be action heroes and doesn’t associate them with the fear and terror necessary for a (survival) horror – that is apparently a womans job.

    Oh, and if you liked The Ring, see it in the original Japanese (much better movie) and also see Ju-on (which was Hollywood-ised as “The Grudge”).

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