Still the concept, story and certainly some key moments of it do stick with you, and now comes the US version which manages to improve on the original in a few ways. Gore Verbinski delivers an effective and creepy sense of both mystery and dread throughout the film’s runtime as well as a the odd good shock to deliver a Hollywood studio picture which has more of an arty European dark suspense feel’, ‘Much like “The Blair Witch Project”, the Japanese version of “The Ring” was in essence a clever and creepy ghost story which got swallowed up by the hype surrounding it – in this case it was to a point where upon my first viewing of it recently I was let down.
Still the concept, story and certainly some key moments of it do stick with you, and now comes the US version which manages to improve on the original in a few ways. Gore Verbinski delivers an effective and creepy sense of both mystery and dread throughout the film’s runtime as well as a the odd good shock to deliver a Hollywood studio picture which has more of an arty European dark suspense feel like “The Others” than the crappy gore-fests that the Tinsletown system is known for turning out (ie. see “Ghost Ship”).
The always radiant Naomi Watts is yet again on a surreal Nancy Drew style investigation/hunt as she was in “Mulholland Drive” although the character is quite different. Watts shows she’s an easy heroinne to sympathise with – beautiful but in a non-starlet way, emotional but strong and in this performance somewhat of a control freak which most of us will understand.
Ex-Aussie TV star Martin Henderson has a very likeable charm and does a pretty good job too as he helps her along the way though an attempt at a sub-plot about their past relationship doesn’t ever really click. The kid David Dorfman has some of the creepiest but cool eyes you’ll ever see on a child actor and is way more likeable than the annoyingly cute Haley Joel Osment, whilst Brian Cox puts in a short but sadly forgettable performance. Its also fun to see ‘Lilo’ herself – Daveigh Chase in the flesh as the creepy Samara.
The urban legend style story of a videotape with nightmare abstract images that kill you is a little simple but it works. After a truly creepy opening involving two girls – one of which may have seen it, we move into the main story as our heroic family trio end up watching the tape and must try to understand the various abstract images on it.
Whilst it never always makes sense (there’s a lot of logic/credibility gaps) it does expand on the story from the original which makes the middle act vastly more engaging and compelling. The end though doesn’t clearly resolve everything which some will be frustrated by but personally I like it that way. The photography and location really add to this movie – lots of blues, grays and greens give the entire tone of the movie a cold, brisk and gloomy look with beautiful but barren locations making things that much more eerie.
As does the score which hangs in the background and weaves in and out with a sense of cunning. Its not perfect however – the pace does drag alright, exposition is piled high or repeated frequently, and quite a few scenes such as the horses have admittedly little to do with the story. It may not be as good as it thinks it is, but its certainly a smarter effort from this genre than many and a good night out for those who want something creepy that will stick with you for a while after seeing it.