The Ring Revisited

I am no weenie.

I grew up on horror of all sorts. My father, from whom I inherited the lion’s share of my geekitude, is an avid fan of the classic horror from the ’50s and ’60s, so there was a good deal of Edgar Allen Poe by way of Vincent Price in my formative years. It wasn’t long before I started sneaking in ’80s horrorfests, probably starting with A Nightmare on Elm Street and Child’s Play and then working my way through all of the classics – The Exorcist, Poltergeist, The Shining (the majority of them from between the ages of eight and eleven).

When Scream came out, an older cousin showed it to me and I still have fond memories of scouring the movie store that summer for every movie referenced within. Carrie was always a particular favorite of mine, and my mother even helped me create a gore-covered costume of the ill-fated prom queen that Halloween. No one in my 6th grade class got it, of course, but such is the life of a young horrorphile.

This isn’t to say that I never got scared – The Shinning, The Exorcist, Poltergeist, even The Blair Witch Project scared me the first time I saw them. But I am tough, some might even say slightly jaded, and the bottom line is that there is nothing I can’t handle.

So when I say a particular movie screwed with my head in a way that turned me into a quivering mass of jelly, I am more than a little embarrassed to admit that it was the American remake of Ring.

The Ring gave me a kind of panic disorder. I couldn’t be in a room with a TV in it. If the TV was turned off, I was paranoid that it would turn on by itself. If it was on, I was afraid of going past a channel with static.

But let’s start from the beginning.

I was 16 in 2002 when Gore Verbinski’s take on the Japanese horror film Ring hit theaters, and I was clearly full of myself when it came to horror movies. I fully admit that the plot is a little silly. Little evil ghost girl inhabits a haunted videotape? If you are cursed to still own a VCR and watch this tape full of twisted images of spinning chairs and ladies brushing their hair and writhing maggots turning into writhing bodies and back again, you would receive a phone call informing you of your last week of life. Seven days later, Spooky von GonnaEatYourSoulPants emerges from your TV and reduces you to a dried-up banana. Naomi Watts makes the mistake of thinking she can break this cycle and hilarity ensues. Doesn’t seem all too intense, right?

However, when the movie was over and I stepped back into the bright lights of the real world, all I kept saying was that I needed a cup of tea. I don’t usually drink tea, but in that moment tea was the only thing with the comfort level I needed to actually calm me down.

There was just something about the film that was so profoundly disturbing it put a crack in my already fragile psyche. I had to sleep in bed with my mother for the first three days after. I couldn’t talk about it in any detail without being reduced to tears. This all lasted a good two weeks. I am serious here; I am not exaggerating any of this. If anything, I am downplaying it.

Six months later, The Ring was on DVD and, horrifyingly enough, on VHS as well. I tried to psyche myself up so that I could get through it, but it was still met with pillow clutching and face hiding. In a way, it might have even been worse anticipating the appearance of certain things that had terrified me the first time.

And, of course, the minute the movie was over, the house phone rang.

A few years ago, around Halloween, I was spending afternoons wandering the aisles of my local Blockbuster in a desperate attempt to find something new and horrifying that would get me in the holiday spirit. I stumbled upon a copy of The Ring on sale for $12.99.

I thought to myself, “This is perfect! This movie really scared me. I’ve only seen it twice and haven’t seen it in at least five years. I’ll get it!”

Then I stood there, remembering. Did I really want to open this door again? Should I risk it?

“Nah, that’s stupid. I am just building it up in my head. It couldn’t have been that bad.”

But what if it was? What if I watch it, then can’t sleep for weeks?

“Maybe it’s better if I don’t risk it.”

I didn’t buy it.

After that, I started thinking about it and feeling bad. Why did this movie scare me so thoroughly? How could I let a movie have an emotional hold on me that was so great that I was afraid to watch it? Movies were supposed to be my friends, not my enemies.

I kept coming back to the visual imagery in the film. There was something fundamentally wrong with it. Could an image be enough to seriously bruise the mind? And, if so, what was it about the images in this horror movie that made them so different than any others I have seen? During the weeks of sleeplessness after my first viewing, I couldn’t get the memory of the first victim’s face out of my mind – that shriveled, terrifying face, mouth agape, huddled in the closet. You only see it for half a moment, but it remained branded in my mind for months.

In my defense, even makeup effects master Rick Baker, who built the damn dummy, admitted it freaked him out so much that he wouldn’t get in the closet with it. At least I am in good company.

I’ve watched hordes of zombies eating people alive and vampires ripping out people’s throats. I’ve seen heads explode. Freddy Kruger, in giant worm form, half-swallowed Patricia Arquette. Charles Hallahan’s chest burst open to expose enormous, gnashing teeth. I have seen a lot of crazy shit, but nothing else I’ve seen has ever fucked with my brain even remotely as much as what is in The Ring. Maybe it comes down to the fact that raw violence doesn’t get to me as much as things that seem unnatural and disturbing – like a Tool video on acid.

I still have not watched The Ring again – despite many opportunities – and it upsets me that I can’t seem to overcome the fear I have of it. Really, folks – it is just a movie, for Pete’s sake! Why am I being such a weenie? My horror movie cred is spiraling down the tubes. Something about it got to me…and still has me, and this aggression will not stand! So this is what I propose as a way of getting my super monster credibility back. The plan is to create a safe environment with friends and a blockade of stuffed animals and Nerf guns (in case of monsters) and with this I will rewatch The Ring for what will be the first time in almost 10 years.
If I survive, I will report back.

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Categories:
Gia Grillo, Horror, Movies
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  • Doc

    I would certainly love to read your reaction if you do get around to watching it again.

  • Mike

    i love The Ring. I think it's one of the best horror movies I've ever seen, because it's the only one that's ever actually frightened me. For some reason, I've only met a small handful of people that feel the same way. Seems most people are indifferent to it.

  • Erin

    I agree. The sound and cinematography has stuck with me more than any other horror movie, no matter how silly the plot was. Oddly, the Japanese original did not seem as unbearable. I haven’t watched it again, either, despite being practically desensitized to gory horror movies.

  • Erik W

    Gia, I finally feel like I am not alone in the world. Just reading this article and seeing that fucking girl in the closet will prevent me from sleeping tonight. There is something tremendously FUCKED about this movie. I can tell you that when it came out on VHS I had the misfortune of purchasing it in attempt to get over it. When you pop in the VHS, rather than rolling the typical "Coming Soon" commercials and trailers you are greeted with, you guessed it, the FUCKING VIDEO FROM THE MOVIE. I remember being frozen in front of my TV. That was the last time I watched it and I don't recommend trying it again. I have and continue to fail again and again. I'm going to watch the Muppets now and hope that Samara and her shriveled victims are wiped from my short term memory again.

    Fellow Unwinnable Staffer,
    Erik

    • Gia

      Oh My Glob! Erik!
      How is this the first time I am hearing about this?! is it kind of sick that this makes me seriously want to track down a VHS copy of this to own?! I kinda have a thing for movie prop/merch tie-ins like that :)
      Also I did recently hook up my VCR again. That's right folks! Drool in jealousy! I could watch The Ring in it's full intended glory!

  • Carla Nicole

    I was scared sh*tless for weeks too! but you know what made me surpass that horrible movie? :) Watching Scary Movie (where they LOLED about the ring) I finally got it was just a movie and it could not harm me in anyway.. I seriously don't know what the F that movie has but to me it was a scary, scary movie that I felt too, I was somewhat Psychologically damaged after watching it.

  • http://cookiesandchronic.tumblr.com ArhJay

    @Carla Nicole the same thing worked for me! No movie messed with me like that movie did, normally after the movie is done so are the emotions towards it. And to think it's only PG-13 so going into the movie you're not expecting much… and then we all know what happened after.

  • Niels

    I would love to see what Cannibal Holocaust, Odishon, or Irreversible would do to you. There's a whole 'nother ballgame out there – tread carefully!

    • deadgowest

      Cannibal Holocaust just came out in HD, it looks friggan amazing! Best theme song ever!

    • Gia

      Odishon (Audition) is actually a favorite of mine, love it to bits and pieces and though the last 15 are grueling it was never something that made me have to sleep with the lights on.
      Had to look up Irreversible cause I was not familiar with that seems interesting but not something that I would find scary or that would effect me in this way.
      As for Cannibal Holocaust, though I have always wanted to see it, from what I know about it I don't think it would scare me either.
      You've gotta understand that I don't find graphic violence scary. I used to watch Faces of Death when I was in high school so ever allegedly "real" stuff doesn't bug me.

  • Julie

    I feel the same as you. I began watching horror movies with my mother as a 6 year old in the early 1970's and felt I was pretty jaded. I have seen The Ring once and will never see it again. Its not so much that it scared me, its that there IS something fundamentally wrong wth it. It does not follow the correct horror movie pattern that makes your brain say "oh its all ok now" when the movie is over. When they find her remains in the well and bury them, THEN it should be over. She should be at rest. All is well. The fact that this happens 1/2 way through the movie throws the normal rythm off and messes up your psyche. THAT is why you cant get over this movie.

    • Gia

      I love the logic of this! and I agree! I even remember flipping out in the theater when the kid says "You weren't supposed to help her!"
      I might have to comment a little about this in my follow-up cause there is a lot of stuff that made me totally shit a brick the first time around that now has really endeared me to this movie as a fan of the horror genre!

  • halle

    this movie had plagued me for 8 years :/ glad to know im not alone, its the only one im truly scared of

  • Gia

    To everyone who dug this article, thank you so much! To those of you who replied with their own stories of being scared shitless over this movie thank you even more! It made me feel like much less of a freak over my temporary psychosis! Keep an eye out for the follow-up!

  • Gia

    To everyone who dug this article, thank you so much! To those of you who replied with their own stories of being scared shitless over this movie thank you even more! It made me feel like much less of a freak over my temporary psychosis! Keep an eye out for the follow-up!