October 24, 2002

Before You Die …

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A sneak preview is one of life’s little pleasures. Not only do you get to see a film before all of your friends; but you also become the expert on the film, deciding its fate, at least in your circle of seven friends. So when The Ring went into sneak preview over fall break I was the first one on line to see the urban legend thriller. The main catchphrase from the film, “Before you die, you see the ring”, will find itself being made fun of on Saturday Night Live and in living rooms across America. You never know, it may even replace “I see dead people”. The Ring provides the audience with a movie that is best watched through the fingers that will be covering your eyes in anticipation.

The film opens with a scene very reminiscent of the famed Drew Barrimore scene in Scream. Two teenage girls, Katie and Becca, are lounging in skimpy school uniforms in Katie’s empty house gossiping about their oh-so-steamy sex lives. When Becca tells Katie about some freaky videotape that kills you seven days after you watch it, Katie tells Becca she’s seen the tape. Knowing it’s probably just an urban legend, the girls laugh it off. Until the TV turns itself on. A very “scary movie” opener, I began to worry that my hopes of a real thriller were crushed. But I was very wrong.

The movie really takes shape when reporter Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts) gets her hands on the story of the mysterious videotape along with the story of the four teenagers who watched it — who all died exactly seven days later. So she tracks down the video and, as the entire audience screams “don’t do it!” watches the tape. Ring Ring. The phone rings and a young girl’s whisper tell Rachel “seven days.” Her mission is clear. She has to figure out where this videotape came from and how she can prevent her supposed demise.

The audience is immediately sympathetic for Watts’ character, a hard-ass reporter with a young son who she hardy understands. Her son Aiden, played by a wide-eyed David Dorfman, calls his mother by her first name and is seemingly an expert on death. Rachel’s main concern is keeping her son safe, especially when he gets his hands on the tape and watches it before Rachel can stop him. When we learn that Aiden’s father is the adorable video expert Noah (Martin Henderson), who has also seen the tape, we are now hoping not only for three lives to be saved, but for a family to be as well.

After Noah sees the fated tape he joins Rachel in her mission to discover the meaning of the ring. In this search, they find themselves seeing images from the tape in their life until they realize “Before you die, you see the ring”. Luckily for them, Rachel’s reporter status gives them access to old newspapers and favors called in to old friends at the morgue. They follow the story to an island where they discover the unthinkable things that affected this small town after a sterile couple, the Morgans, bring Samara into the world. One of the main atrocities imposed on the town was the death of hundreds of horses on the Morgan’s ranch. And one of the most outrageous scenes in the movie is when a horse, on route to the island by boat with Rachel, escapes from its cage and after terrorizing the passengers, takes a flying leap straight into the ocean.

As in all scary movies worthy of being called a thriller, The Ring plays homage to Alfred Hitchcock. As Rachel shows Noah the movie, she wanders to the window. In true Rear Window style, the audience becomes voyeurs along with Rachel, witnessing the people in the apartment building across from hers carrying on their daily activities including watching harmless television. The last man we see is (perhaps Jimmy Stewart?) in a wheelchair with a broken leg watching a video. The director, Gore Verbinski, pulls this off with great ease. He incorporates looming camera angles and random ‘rings’ strategically placed throughout the film.

I watched this movie peaking through my hands that were supposed to be shielding my eyes. The film is masterfully paced, keeping a tally of how many days Rachel has left to live at the bottom of the screen throughout the movie. The movie doesn’t end when you think it does, a twist only a movie such as this could pull off so seamlessly. Thankfully, I saw this film in the theater and not on videotape or, who knows, I might only have seven days left.

Archived article by Alyssa Cohen