Scariest Films Ever: THE RING

ring_7THE RING (Gore Verbinski, 2002) | This Friday & Saturday at midnite | Get Tickets

From the scariest film I’ve ever seen division comes The Ring

Now before anyone starts, I also think that the original Ringu is the scariest movie ever along with pretty much every other J-Horror film I’ve ever watched (other examples: Juon to Audition). I just can’t. Japanese horror films tap into that especially dark place deep inside of me but, really, they express the cultural traumas experienced by Japan from WWII and, since I’m not Japanese, I can only think that these kinds of wounds are felt universally across all generations.* Plus, that black, wet hair. 

A long-time lover of horror films, I went to see The Ring one sunny afternoon in Los Angeles, at the Grove no less. It scared the shit out of me from the start: the distorted faces, the inescapability of a horrible death, the completely whacked out surrealist dream scenarios. Everything in the film is black, blue, and sopping wet. But what most terrified me, and this is also what I think is most brilliant about the story, is that the audience watches the killer video; we become complicit in the act but are held unaccountable. Instead, we see what happens to the others at a very safe distance but all the while checking our blissfully benign television monitors.

What’s central to the plot (watching a VHS tape that will then result in a series of phone calls warning of your death in seven days and concluding in a very twisted killing) comes at the end of an era when this would be believable. But it also is amidst a tide of horror films that involve the changing tide of technology, voyeurism, and accessibility. While now the idea of a VHS and a large block TV seems nearly an anachronism, it holds down the idea of the transference of an object rather than simply of the content. The TV actually acts as a portal, much like in Poltergeist, between the ghostly and living realms; is there anything more frightening than watching her crawl into our dimension? Many films before and since The Ring have embraced killer technology but something about this one in particular continues to get to the heart of the matter. 

I’ve tried to watch The Ring and its sequel (directed by Hideo Nakata, the director of Ringu) since that scary day in Los Angeles but I just can’t. This actually bugs me because it’s beautiful and really, really good. I hope you all enjoy in on the big screen this weekend and, please, do your friends a favor and DO NOT prank call them whispering “seven days” afterwards. That’s how heart attacks start.

*See Adam Lowenstein’s book Shocking Representation: Historical Trauma, National Cinema, and the Modern Horror Film if this sort of cultural horror interests you.