“You start to play it, and it’s like somebody’s nightmare.”
Before The Ring hit theaters in 2002, I didn’t think much of the trailers. Studios teased a movie about a mysterious, cursed tape, which somehow had the power to kill its viewers. It looked hokey, if stylishly done, but it didn’t particularly pique my interest.
Then I watched it, and holy cow. I don’t recall ever being so scared in my life. I still remember sitting in the theater (front row!), jacket pulled over my face, enthralled and afraid.
While the movie as a whole is a great example of psychological horror, the ending is particularly good. Director Gore Verbinski does a fantastic job of making the audience feel safe, only to save the best scare—and the best twist—for last.
After finding Samara’s corpse at the bottom of a well, Rachel (Naomi Watts) buries her in an effort to appease her spirit. Thinking the tape’s curse has been broken, Rachel returns home in an upbeat mood, which makes you think the movie will have a “happy” ending.
But that’s not the case. Rachel’s son Aidan (David Dorfman), tells her that Samara “never sleeps,” and the curse hasn’t been broken at all. Much to her horror, Rachel realizes Noah (Martin Henderson) is Samara’s next victim.
When we cut to Noah at his home, a ring from his coffee mug is left on a piece of paper, indicating Samara’s arrival. His TV mysteriously turns on to static, which he promptly turns off. As he walks away, the TV turns on again, this time to the horrifying image of the well that begins the tape.
Shocked and unable to accept what’s happening, Noah is drawn to the TV, which shows Samara’s gruesome corpse crawl out of the well. Seeing her walk toward the screen practically had me jumping out of my seat. And the way the scene is edited is a masterclass.
I love how Noah can’t look away, and how the editors used cuts to jump Samara closer. Meanwhile, Rachel is on her phone trying to warn Noah, but he’s too preoccupied by his TV to pick up.
When Samara crawls out of the TV, the imagery of her waterlogged corpse is incredibly effective. She still looks like she’s inside of the VHS tape, yet she’s standing inside Noah’s swanky loft. And when she stands up, she essentially teleports to where Noah is standing a good fifteen feet away. It’s a great jump scare.
As Noah struggles to escape, Samara reveals her hideous face, ultimately causing Noah to have a psychogenic death. Poor, poor Noah. He was so innocent and naive.
After Noah’s death, Rachel realizes that she was spared by Samara because she made a copy of the tape, which she passed on to Noah. In order to save her son, Rachel has Aidan make a copy of the tape as well, and when asked what will happen to the next person they show it to, she remains silent.
It’s a final, spine-tingling moment in a movie filled with them, and a reason why I hold The Ring in such high regard. If you haven’t seen the 2002 remake, you should check it out. You might not get the same experience I had all those years ago—VHS tapes are so out of style—but it’s good for a few jump scares.
If anything, it’ll get you primed for Rings, which hits theaters this Friday.