Terms that have come to be wholly dismissed by the filmgoing public, met with a collective sigh of exasperation whenever they're uttered. Yes the world of entertainment has notably been going through a bit of a trend over the past decade or so... any successful property, no matter how old (or young) or how highly (or lowly) regarded it may be, can and will likely be revisited with one of those labels slapped on.
From a business perspective, it makes sense. Familiarity and recognizable names are an invaluable thing to have in the world of entertainment, with millions upon millions riding in the balance and audiences fickle of which original properties they'll give a chance to or not. But from a personal perspective, there are plenty of people who are getting sick of the remakes and reboots. Because they think it represents the loss of original ideas or does a disservice to the original works.
But the reason why I personally cannot wholly dismiss good-old remakes, reboots, etc. is because for every few terrible cash-grab retreads... for every couple needlessly gritty re-tellings... for every handful of just plain awful re-treads... there's at least one good one. Sometimes even one fantastic one. A rarity that rivals the original, honoring it while also functioning well as its own artistic piece.
"The Ring", a 2002 horror film from director Gore Verbinski, is one such film.
Taking inspiration from the worldwide phenomena that is director Hideo Nakata's Japanese thriller "Ringu" (or "Ring"; inspired by the novels of Koji Suzuki), "The Ring" is a stirring, thrilling and often chilling excursion into the world of supernatural terror.
After her niece is killed under mysterious circumstances, journalist Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts) probes her death, soon discovering it is connected to a mysterious video cassette containing a series of disturbing and twisted images... soon after, a phonecall with the cryptic message of "seven days" warns her of her impending doom. Together with her ex Noah (Martin Henderson) and young son Aiden (David Dorfman), Rachel must solve the mystery of this supernatural video in order to save her life.
One of the most important things a remake must do in order to justify its own existence is to not only give honor and homage to the original, but also explore the concept, storyline and characters in new, relevant and interesting ways. And that most certainly is one of the main strengths of "The Ring." It takes the basic premise presented in the Nakata original, but builds upon and subverts the circumstances of the story in order to retain a degree of freshness. While most noticeable in the obvious and necessary differences in American and Japanese cultures and horror, the film also does a lot of other new and interesting things with the very concept itself and the characters to differentiate the two stories. But it never loses sight of what made the original so effective- that being the grand mystery aspect and the old-fashioned ghost-story. You can watch it immediately after the original, and still not quite know where it's going while still appreciating the wonderful homages to the original and the familiarity of the story. That's perhaps one of the best things a remake can do... present something familiar, but give it just enough of a new spin that it feels fresh once again. Which is sadly something most other remakes fail to heed, with many either being too much a slave to the original or too far removed from it.
The other great strength of the film is the wonderfully oppressive and dreary visual direction courtesy Verbinski. While he is perhaps most noted as the big-budget director of fare such as "Pirates of the Caribbean" and "The Lone Ranger", I've often found that his strongest work is his more intimate and low-budget... particularly the quirky drama "The Weather Man" and this film. Here, he paints a beautiful and dark portrait of terror, using strong composition and subtle moments of striking fear to create an absolute atmosphere of dread. Along with his keen use of elements like rain, muted color and quick cutting, Verbinksi crafts a wonderful visual guidance that brings you right into the film. Combined with the cool, deathly palate of cinematographer Bojan Bazelli and the freakish and mournful music of Hans Zimmer, Verbinski is able to craft the perfect visual and audible horror experience to tell this tale.
The performances of the cast are also quite magnificent. In particular Watts, who is just perfect in her role. There's a great sense of both personal strength and self-doubt that she fills Keller with, and it makes the character memorable and easily identifiable. Definitely one of the best horror-movie leads of its decade.
If I were to nit-pick the film's few weaknesses, I'd have to say it's biggest issue is that it can occasionally fall for the rare cliché and predictable moment. And I'd be lying if I said I couldn't help but compare it to the stellar original, which was on the whole just a touch more startling and cohesive an experience. Especially in the way the story comes together in the end and you discover just what's happening and why... it seemed almost a little too far-fetched in this remake in comparison to the original.
Still, those minor flaws cannot detract from the overall film, and it remains not only a great film on its own right, but also a prime example of why remakes shouldn't be outwardly dismissed without being given a proper chance. If it weren't for remakes, we wouldn't have fantastic works like this.
I give "The Ring" a fantastic 9 out of 10. Worth seeing for fans of mystery, horror and suspense!