I'm big on the source material for anything I review. I believe that accuracy is important, so when I decided that 2002's The Ring was a must see, I realized that I had to view the original it was remade from... Hideo Nakata's Ringu! If you haven't seen Ringu yet, please do! It is a superior motion picture and one of the best horror films of all time. On the other hand The Ring, yet another remake of Ringu is no slouch itself, and unlike most remakes this isn't some travesty against the source material. In fact, aside from minor differences, this film and its creators seem to give a damn about the original, and wish for an homage, knowing what works, rather than an attempt to second guess the original. Keep in mind Ringu is better, but The Ring is highly above average and worthy of the respect that it's been getting of late!
By now most of you are familiar with the premise. For those of you who are not, The Ring surrounds a cursed video cassette that infects its viewers with a promise of death in exactly seven days. While The Ring is an undeniably Americanized version of Ringu, what it is not is an unrecognizable mess that has little to do with the original. After remakes of Ocean's Eleven and The Getaway (not to mention Planet of the Apes), it's refreshing to see that some remakes are indeed remakes!
For The Ring the differences are not that which was left out, but that which was added. I haven't read K˘ji Suzuki's original novel upon which the no less than Seven filmic translations have been based, so who knows, perhaps the added (or changed) subplots agree with the original story. Either way, nitpicking aside, The Ring has an exciting plot all its own, and isn't afraid to alternate between scenes and angles carbon copied directly from Hideo Nakata, and all original shots straight from the imaginations of director Gore Verbinski (Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl ) and screenwriter Ehren Kruger.
The cast is pretty interesting. Replacements include Naomi Watts as the lovely investigative reporter around whom most of the action takes place; Martin Henderson as her also infected Ex, and David Dorfman as their son! They're all around pretty good here, but lack the poise and innate believability that the original Japanese Cast had.
Another big difference here is in the separation between the two films in mood. Ringu is a bit of a road picture featuring two estranged (but in love) people searching for survival. The Ring's leads spend more time separately horsing around (literally) as they hunt for their survival. While this does work for The Ring it also shatters the timeline established by the tape. Sure they have to drive quite a lot of the time, but it seems that from time to time Watt's Rachel Keller makes one tiny revelation per day, then nothing else needs to be filmed. It makes for a tight and fast paced claustrophobic movie, but it also makes one wonder where the time went! Couldn't they have reached their final solution much quicker?
Where Ringu relied on subtlety, The Ring relies on the explicit. Where Ringu delved into refined art, The Ring occasionally opts for the melodramatic, as if to say "See this? You should be scared. Please be scared!" In many cases they succeed in scaring us, but occasionally one wants the underlying creepiness of the original! An underused standout here is Daveigh Chase who, despite her age, is as creepy as it gets. Kudos to her! When the aforementioned final solution is arrived at the Americanized action takes over a little much (for example, to get to a basement area Henderson's Noah chops through the floor violently, landlord be damned, rather than going through less destructive side entrance as in Ringu). There are also the occasional implausible situations and dangerously un-survivable moments that work out just fine for the cast. Still, it is scary as hell, and if you don't sweat the small stuff, it's a lot of fun!
The video itself is actually more of a good thing. In Ringu the video is short and Bergman-esque, whereas here the video is longer, and more of an MTV-era David Fincher experiment! This too is a mixed bag, actually because it does add more depth and chills than the original tape did, but at the same time it does take away from some of the skillful delicacies of the first tape. It's hard to say which is better, but that both are different with all the necessities remaining.
On the whole the same things happen in both films but for differing motivations (or the same action by a different character)! Of course the motivations and backgrounds are different, but the ideas are in essence the same. It's possible that American audiences might not be prepared for the dialogue-heavy travel film that Ringu was, but in that this film is a research-heavy Eureka movie, one wonders if the changes were needed. Are sleuthing parents really less tolerable than a psychic son? It avoids the "because I said so" approach, but one might wonder why we should just accept these things on blind faith!
Regardless of the mixed opinions I voiced heard here, I have to give The Ring Four Stars! There are less changes between this film and its source than between Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers than its source. For the simple reasons of less changes and more sense than most remakes, this film is a notch above the rest. Backing off from the compare and contrast motif, The Ring is a pretty damned good and pretty damned scary horror film! If you haven't seen this yet and want to, why not rent (or buy) the DVD version of this film? There's a fascinating extra (marked simply "Don't Watch This") on the DVD that adds in all the deleted scenes and alternate versions in a surreal montage that adds more depth, and explains (some of) the dangling questions left by both this movie and the original. Don't watch it first though, because spoilers lie therein. For some reason after I watched that one there was a phone call and nobody was there. I guess it's best not to think about it. Probably just a wrong number or something.