Based upon the (Japanese) book of the same name, Nakata's film broadly follows its source material (although it switches the roles of the the journalist and estranged partner, here giving the detective work to the wife instead of the husband) but without offering too much in the way of explanation. Which is just as well, as Ring's strengths lie in the atmosphere it creates rather than what it actually delivers. Those who like their stories with all the i's dotted and all the t's crossed are likely to find this film insubstantial and annoying. Those willing to take it on face value will reap much more.
A journalist investigates an urban myth about those who watch a video tape, get a creepy phone call (the 'ring' of the title?) and then die mysteriously seven days later. Before you can say "Jesus, don't be so bloody stupid!" said journalist has watched the video and discovers what it's like to be counting the minutes to one's death. Not a great deal happens in the film and what does occur is presented at a 'sedate' pace to put it politely. Whilst I welcome the change of pace from the ubiquitous 'rollercoaster of a movie' approach to Hollywood horror, this does come perilously close to coming to a complete halt at times.
Like most of the best horror films though, it's what Ring leaves out (both in terms of images and explanations) that provide this film with much of its atmosphere. The soundtrack and the eerie sounds in the film (which sound like disembodied, screaching female voices) are genuinely unnerving. The video tape images themselves, particularly when seen for the first time, are simple yet disturbing. And there are a couple of goosebump-inducing images which involve Polaroid photos and a TV set (which recalls to mind Cronenberg's Videodrome). The conclusion is dragged out far too long and doesn't really deliver on the fright front but does go someway to offering a few answers to the backstory. As as whole it is left wanting, but in parts it is extremely chilling. Nevertheless, this is certainly better than The Blair Witch Project with which it has (understandably but misleadingly) been compared. 7/10
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