film review: The Ring ***

Before reading this review, you should know that I’m on about the same level as four year-old girls when it comes to watching scary movies. I can sit through monsters attacking and serial killers and other concept horror films, but throw down a cheesy flick where bad guys jump out from behind walls with chainsaws revving, and I’m hiding under my seat like a Yankees fan in Anaheim. Films like The Others and Final Destination are my biggest cinematic fears, with Barbra Streisand movies coming in a close second.

So off I went to see the newest in a slur of recent horror flicks, entitled The Ring. The film is about people who, after seeing a rare video, get a phone call telling them that they will die in seven days. And of course, they do.

FearDotCom, a hokey box office flop that got squished out of the studio machine in September, had the same plot, but with a website in place of a video. I somehow got tricked into seeing it, and of course, hated it. So my expectations for The Ring were not of the highest caliber, despite some interesting trailers and advertisements.

I went into the theater expecting another FearDotCom, but I ended up scared out of my mind half way through the film. I was afraid to scratch my face, for fear that I would jump and gouge out my eyeball during a sudden scary moment. The movie’s concept is kind of corny, and the acting is nothing special, but it’s executed well by director Gore Verbinski (Mouse Hunt, strangely enough), making you forget about the excess mediocrity.

Naomi Watts (Mulholland Dr.) stars as Rachel, an investigative journalist who becomes enwrapped in the mystery of the tape, and in the process, watches it herself. She then has to figure out the way the tape works in an effort to not only get her story, but to save her own life.

The lone bright spot of acting in the film is by David Dorfman, who plays her eerie son, Aidan. Dorfman’s character is reminiscent of Haley Joel Osment’s in The Sixth Sense, although his acting falls just short of Osment’s of gloom and doom.

The Ring could have been the horror movie of the year given better preparation. Verbinski, despite having never delved into the horror genre before, is the perfect director. His scary moments are terrifying, and his comedic ones, funny. His camerawork, special effects, lighting and choice of music are all top notch. Unfortunately, he’s hampered by weak acting and a plot with more holes than a brick of Swiss cheese and not nearly the entertainment value.

The movie plays like a desperate attempt by Verbinski to rescue the other parts of the film. The Ring, like many other horror films before it, makes the mistake of having horribly unlikable and stupid characters. Of course, the kid knows everything, and the rest of the characters could just turn to him from the beginning. Of course, the injured woman will wander into the dark house alone. Of course, stupid teenagers will watch the video that’s supposed to kill them.

The reason why some horror movies, like The Sixth Sense, can be so successful is because their characters are more fleshed out. Being able to write smart characters that make the same decisions the viewers would make is the key to a successful horror flick. Some other familiar clich