T Nation

Ring

Here’s a recent script review of the US remake of the Japanese chiller classic “Ring”. I’ve been keeping an eye on this one, which was recently being filmed in Washington state. Fellow T-Peoples, this sounds VERY much like the scary movie we’re waiting for.

DreamWorks "Ring" is the Thing Darwin says it could be as scary as the original "Exorcist" was. It's about time. Friday, July 12, 2002

Early in the script RING someone asks, “When’s the last time you saw a scary movie that really scared you?” Well, I can safely say that the scary movie that will really scare you is RING. A creepy, spine-tingling psychological horror script that works its long, bony fingers under your flesh and insinuates itself until you’re weeping.

I’m kind of in a tough spot here with this review. Because I don’t want to give anything away. I want you all to go into the movie blind, unaware of the ghastly fun to come. But I think I can manage some superlatives.

Let’s put it this way: RING is the first horror-movie script I ever read that had me jumpy and creeped out. This thing is atmospheric and stygian on the page. Most movies have me rolling my eyes and laughing, but this thing -- just the words on paper -- had me whirling around, feeling eyes on my back; my skin was prickling with nervousness. There’s something about this story -- something inherently spooky -- that sends a chill through you.

Here’s what I’m willing to tell you (you probably already know this from our site and various others): the luminous and extraordinary Naomi Watts plays Rachel Keller, a reporter whose niece dies a mysterious death. She overhears teenagers talking at her funeral and learns that she might have been killed – somehow – by a videotape. The legend/rumor is this: someone watches the tape (which is impressionistically weird) and gets a phone call. “You will die in seven days.” And then, of course, the people die odd, seemingly self-induced deaths.

Rachel tracks down this tape and watches it herself (not exactly a smart move). With the help of a photographer she tries to crack the code of the tape and figure out what it means, and how to save her life. Because, as her seven days tick away, she becomes more and more convinced the tape is no joke. It’s a death sentence.

And there you have it -- a simple, effective scary-movie tale. Despite its Japanese horror- phenomenon provenance, the script is sort of like a amalgam of the original NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, the original CANDYMAN, STIR OF ECHOES and CARRIE. (If you’re going to combine ideas from other people, why not use ideas from Wes Craven, Clive Barker, Richard Matheson and Stephen King?)

There’s something especially evocative and goose-bump-inducing about a villain or bad guy that is essentially shapeless and nonexistent. In this case we’re talking about a video. So here the telltale signs of something nasty about to happen are TVs going on and off and static on a screen and then, as the script progresses, images from the tape itself. (There’s a horrific bit, which I won’t detail, where poor Rachel has to disgorge something of supreme disgust and ambiguity.) It lends to a great paranoid, fright-height tension when something is fundamentally “real.” It’s harder to get scared of some madman in a white mask stalking you with a knife. How many among us can say they have experienced this? But, on the other hand (and this is something Steve King knows well), how many have seen something in a shadow, late at night, and thought maybe -- just maybe -- something wasn’t right. Or looked up suddenly in their rearview mirror and thought they saw something -- something wrong -- and jumped a mile?

There’s something rapturously eerie about the idea of realizing an act you do with anonymity -- like watching a tape -- isn’t private. You are being watched somehow, exposed, and suddenly there are eyes everywhere -- even in the former safety of your home. It’s like a crash course in paranoia. And that phone call -- that symbol-crashing trill -- the nerve-splinting, synapse-snapping toll of doom. Oh, it all just fits into a nice little package.

RING is fingertips waltzing up your spine. It is a split-second image in your peripheral vision. It is your sixth sense telling you something is behind a door. It is movement in the dark. It is hot breath on your neck. It is a sonorous moan creeping into your head. The ant-weight nothingness marching over your skin that makes you shiver till your teeth rattle. RING is, simply, a great horror-movie script that I enjoyed tremendously, and, though I can’t speak of the film, I recommend what I read unreservedly. What I think we’re going to see is the first truly scary, truly worthy, truly audiences-screaming-in-fright-and-loving-it, armrest-destroying, fainting-dead-away-in-anticipation, fingernail-chewing, clutch-the-arm-next- to-you scary movie. (Is this a sister to that all-time best creepster flick THE EXORCIST? Could be.) RING doesn’t need blood or gore. It forgets about grossing you out. Instead it makes your heart stop cold in your chest and screws with your brain so fiendishly you might develop a twitch in your eye.

I couldn’t get the script out of my head. In fact, I don’t really like looking at the reflective white screen in front of me. You never know what I’ll see over my shoulder...

And now let’s talk specs. Gore Verbinski takes the helms here. Gore (sort of the perfectly inverted name for this project) directed MOUSEHUNT (a favorite of mine) and THE MEXICAN (which was actually a lot more appealing than the script). The film will star Naomi Watts, who was lavished with deserving kudos for her work in Lynch’s MULHOLLAND DR. I think Naomi is without a doubt the most exciting actress around. Her work in DRIVE absolutely blew my mind. She attacked the two-headed role she had to play with a finesse and aplomb that was giddily fun and amazing to watch. She will, of course, bring something special to the table.

The draft I’ve reviewed here is by Ehren Kruger (SCREAM III, REINDEER GAMES). Since then Scott Frank (Oscar-nominated scribe of such exceptional work as GET SHORTY, DEAD AGAIN and MINORITY REPORT) has rewritten the script.

Kruger did a sublime job of mapping out the frights, shocks and surprises in his script. (The actual terminus of the story is not a letdown, which is rare for films like these, and the story is actually a great whodunit.) .....">/i>

So, there it is folks. Also, there is another film due out called "Ghost Ship" and it looks pretty creepy, too. :-)