That's Something You Don't See Every Day, Chauncey

Watch me pull a rabbit outta my hat!

Posts Tagged ‘the ring’

All-Time Top 20 Favorite Movies, #17: She’s never going to whisper in my fucking ear ever again.

Posted by kozemp on November 6, 2012

She never sleeps...

A couple years back, this was probably around 2003 or so, I did something I had never done before and, as near as I can remember never did again: I bought a DVD of a movie I hadn’t seen. I honestly don’t remember why I did it; my friends hadn’t exactly talked it up to me. The reviews were good, sure, but who drops 18 bucks on reviews and a hope?

Still, I bought the movie on a Friday night and took it home to watch. I popped it in the DVD player, collected the remote and my cigarettes, and turned off the living room lights. This is something else – turning off the lights to watch a movie – I had never done before and have never done since.

I lit a cigarette and pressed PLAY on the remote.

After the first scene I stood up, pressed PAUSE on the front of the DVD player, and turned the lights back on.

Once the lights were back on I sat on the edge of the recliner, trying to light another cigarette with shaking hands, looking around for the remote that had been sitting on my leg for the first scene of the movie. It was in the middle of the living room floor. It must have flown there when, at the end of the first scene, I literally jumped up in my chair and screamed louder than I ever have or ever will.

The remote laid there on the living room carpet, that terrible carpet we had back then before I tore it out in a fit of interior design rage, it laid there taunting me, DARING me, to turn the movie back on. I’d seen eight minutes of it and was more scared than I had been in my entire life. I sat there staring at the remote and just before I gathered up enough courage to pick it up and restart the movie I caught a glimpse of the light switch next to the TV and thought, it’s going to be a LONG time before I’m alone in the dark again.

This is how you take a big, mean, chain-smoking bastard and turn him into a mass of quivering baby food:

You sit him in the dark and show him The Ring.

Now, understand, I am a person who loves horror movies. Okay, let me clarify that a little. I love GOOD horror movies. And I’m not talking about “Friday the 13th Part XXXIV: Jason Goes to Tulsa” shit. Any idiot with a camera who knows what a foreground is can make that kind of horror movie. Funky death effects aside movies like that require no skill to make. I’m talking serious, honest-to-god movies that also happen to be really, really scary. We are talking about The Exorcist here. Halloween. Alien. Jaws. The really good stuff. I love movies like this. I LOVE them.

My love for them is, frankly, a little masochistic. I have an extensive series of clinical, left-brain blockages set up precisely so that I don’t immerse myself so much in whatever entertainment I’m consuming that I fall headfirst into it, but a really well-constructed horror movie blows right past all of that. I go from snobbish, detached film school intellectual to covering my eyes and whispering to the characters faster than Superman changes clothes. I am powerless against a really good horror flick, and yet I still repeatedly subject myself to them.

(Interesting side note: the only other genre that sucks me in that quickly and that thoroughly? Romances. c.f. my abiding love of Casablanca, The English Patient, Atonement, et al).

Before I saw The Ring I had, of course, been well and fully briefed on the leading lights of the horror genre. Back in college I was “the movie guy” and Halloween with me and my friends would routinely involve me bringing over large stacks of VHS horror movies and small bunches of us sitting around getting blitzed while scaring the crap out of ourselves. So I’d been there and I had most assuredly done that. I had seen The Exorcist in the theatre. I had gone into Blair Witch with an open mind and gotten a damn good scare for my trouble. I had believed the woman I thought I was in love with at the time when she told me she wanted to watch Halloween (I had to sit on the floor in her dorm and, I am not making this up, she spent the entire movie kicking me in the back of the head). I had suffered plenty of mental damage and a bit of physical damage in the service of my horror movie jones.

As I sat down to watch The Ring – with the lights out, which to this day I cannot explain – I figured that I had already been through the proverbial wringer when it came to horror movies.

Oh, sweet merciful lord, how wrong I was.

After I spent a few minutes calming myself down I picked up the remote, took a deep breath, and started the movie again.

I was immediately struck by how… I suppose the word is “careful” the filmmaking was. The first scene is scary as fucking hell, even years on and having seen it multiple times when I watched it last week I still jumped at the right spots, though not as high. After that, though, Verbinski works very hard to construct what for lack of a better word is a very “real” movie: single mother, precocious kid, grieving friends, broken relationships, everyone trying to come to terms with the death of a teenage girl in a depressing, rain-drenched landscape.

Once you get past that first scene things move along pretty swimmingly, actually, until the first time we see the tape.

 

The tape isn’t that scary in and of itself. It’s off-putting and weird and vaguely unpleasant but there’s nothing on there to make you scream. But watching it along with Rachel – and you do just watch the tape with the character, there’s only one cut away from it the first time it’s shown and it’s at a perfect spot – a sense of foreboding builds and builds and builds, and Rachel’s reaction just makes it somehow worse.

The worst part, though, is that you KNOW that phone is going to ring and you KNOW there’s going to be that horrible voice, and the anticipation of that happening is FAR worse than the actual event – face it, it’s a phone ringing – but through some genius alchemy Verbinksi holds that moment for JUST long enough that when it happens you still jump out of your seat. Because you are weak and while you are sitting in front of The Ring, Gore Verbinski is God. Worse, he is an all-powerful god of fear and you have severely displeased him.

Once you’ve seen the tape the movie proceeds as… I don’t want to say a “standard” horror movie, because it isn’t, if there even is such a thing. But it follows a known arc, at the very least. Mysterious happenings abound, Rachel investigates, things escalate from mysterious to dangerous to horrifying, the stakes are raised, questions are asked and answered, and eventually there is a horror- and emotion-packed climax. Make no mistake, though – everything up to this point has been executed with nothing less than stunning precision.

This is just how incredibly well-made the movie is:

Sitting there watching it, about halfway through the movie – around when Rachel arrives on the island – my phone rang. For the second time in less than two hours I literally JUMPED out of the recliner and started screaming incoherently. It wasn’t just the shock of the noise – I was absolutely certain that a ringing phone meant I WAS GOING TO DIE.

I clumsily grabbed the remote and paused the film, then grabbed a quick look at the display on my cell. It was my friend Chris.

I flipped open the phone and started screaming.

“YOU MOTHERFUCKER! YOU MOTHERFUCKER! YOU SCARED THE LIVING FUCK OUT OF ME! YOU FUCKING MOTHERFUCKER OH MY FUCKING GOD!”

Chris said, “what? What did I do?”

I sputtered, “you… you… you fucking CALLED me! Oh my god I thought I was going to fucking DIE!”

Chris said, “what the hell are you doing?”

Starting to calm down, I said, “I’m watching The Ring.”

Chris said, “oh, Jesus Christ, I’m sorry, I’m REALLY sorry.”

His contrition was genuine: he’d seen the movie.

It goes beyond precision, really. Everything in The Ring is note-perfect, and part of its brilliance is the way we get drawn into the quest along with Rachel. It is as much a detective movie as a horror film, but we carry along and experience with her the feeling that, after you watch the tape, the entire world is just increasingly WRONG and the movie becomes as much about setting reality right as it is saving herself. Still, though, it IS a horror movie, and once everything has been set in place the aforementioned climax has to happen, and there are scares and moments of swelling emotion and finally release, and when Rachel says “I want to go home,” you sit there, exhausted, and say to yourself “god DAMN that was a great fucking movie!”

But, and this is the true genius of The Ring, the movie doesn’t end there.

After what would be the climactic final battle of a lesser movie – hell, of a perfectly respectable movie – The Ring yet has manipulations profane and sublime in store. In what is supposed to be the happy denouement between casually estranged mother and son, finally united against a cruel world, when Aidan says “why did you do that” your stomach drops and your flesh starts to crawl and you realize that everything up to that moment has just been the movie playing with you, TOYING with you, and that what’s about to come is going to be worse than you could possibly imagine.

And oh GOD does it come, and oh GOD is it worse than your wildest nicotine patch nightmares. I’ve watched a great white shark terrorize Amity Island, I’ve watched Michael Myers stalk Laurie Strode, I’ve watched Regan McNeil defile a crucifix, and for however visceral and truly horrifying those things are (and they most assuredly are), none of them, and indeed nothing I’d ever seen before or have since since or will likely ever see again, none of them come close to the sheer, abject terror of the penultimate scene of The Ring. I spent the entire scene desperately trying to get away from what was on my television, trying to scramble up and over the back of the recliner, trying to look away, moaning, “no, no, no” over and over again, but I was fixed to the spot. I couldn’t get away. I couldn’t not look at it.

You can very easily get all film-school-literary-studies-major douchebag about The Ring, talk about Verbinski’s use of imagery and color, or talk about how it uses the supernatural to demonstrate the threat of technology or how it presents a case for the empowerment of women or one of a host of lit-crit theory crap, and you’d have fertile ground on which to plant your bullshit lit-crit douchebag arguments, and all those things are true. Verbinski goes out of his way to create a real, artistic, serious “literary” movie, and he succeeds, and all those things apply. But for all it’s artistic merit – and it is fucking well brimming with it – the bottom line on The Ring is that penultimate scene. It is the pure distillation of horror in movie form. And I don’t mean in terms of gore or violence or blood. There aren’t any. I mean just stark, basic, amygdala-shattering terror. It is the single most frightening thing I’ve ever seen on film.

And I still can’t look away.

JLK

Posted in movies | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

She’s never going to whisper in my fucking ear ever again.

Posted by kozemp on October 30, 2009

A couple years back, this was probably around 2003 or so, I did something I had never done before and, as near as I can remember never did again: I bought a DVD of a movie I hadn’t seen. I honestly don’t remember why I did it; my friends hadn’t exactly talked it up to me. The reviews were good, sure, but who drops 18 bucks on reviews and a hope?

Still, I bought the movie on a Friday night and took it home to watch. I popped it in the DVD player, collected the remote and my cigarettes, and turned off the living room lights. This is something else – turning off the lights to watch a movie – I had never done before and have never done since.

I lit a cigarette and pressed PLAY on the remote.

After the first scene I stood up, pressed PAUSE on the front of the DVD player, and turned the lights back on.

Once the lights were back on I sat on the edge of the recliner, trying to light another cigarette with shaking hands, looking around for the remote that had been sitting on my leg for the first scene of the movie. It was in the middle of the living room floor. It must have flown there when, at the end of the first scene, I literally jumped up in my chair and screamed louder than I ever have or ever will.

The remote laid there on the living room carpet, that terrible carpet we had back then before I tore it out in a fit of interior design rage, it laid there taunting me, DARING me, to turn the movie back on. I’d seen eight minutes of it and was more scared than I had been in my entire life. I sat there staring at the remote and just before I gathered up enough courage to pick it up and restart the movie I caught a glimpse of the light switch next to the TV and thought, it’s going to be a LONG time before I’m alone in the dark again.

This is how you take a big, mean, chain-smoking bastard and turn him into a mass of quivering baby food:

You sit him in the dark and show him The Ring.

Now, understand, I am a person who loves horror movies. Okay, let me clarify that a little. I love GOOD horror movies. And I’m not talking about “Friday the 13th Part XXXIV: Jason Goes to Tulsa” shit. Any idiot with a camera who knows what a foreground is can make that kind of horror movie. Funky death effects aside movies like that require no skill to make. I’m talking serious, honest-to-god movies that also happen to be really, really scary. We are talking about The Exorcist here. Halloween. Alien. Jaws. The really good stuff. I love movies like this. I LOVE them.

My love for them is, frankly, a little masochistic. I have an extensive series of clinical, left-brain blockages set up precisely so that I don’t immerse myself so much in whatever entertainment I’m consuming that I fall headfirst into it, but a really well-constructed horror movie blows right past all of that. I go from snobbish, detached film school intellectual to covering my eyes and whispering to the characters faster than Superman changes clothes. I am powerless against a really good horror flick, and yet I still repeatedly subject myself to them.

(Interesting side note: the only other genre that sucks me in that quickly and that thoroughly? Romances. c.f. my abiding love of Casablanca, The English Patient, Atonement, et al).

Before I saw The Ring I had, of course, been well and fully briefed on the leading lights of the horror genre. Back in college I was “the movie guy” and Halloween with me and my friends would routinely involve me bringing over large stacks of VHS horror movies and small bunches of us sitting around getting blitzed while scaring the crap out of ourselves. So I’d been there and I had most assuredly done that. I had seen The Exorcist in the theatre. I had gone into Blair Witch with an open mind and gotten a damn good scare for my trouble. I had believed the woman I was in love with at the time when she told me she wanted to watch Halloween (I had to sit on the floor in her dorm and, I am not making this up, she spent the entire movie kicking me in the back of the head). I had suffered plenty of mental damage and a bit of physical damage in the service of my horror movie jones.

As I sat down to watch The Ring – with the lights out, which to this day I cannot explain – I figured that I had already been through the proverbial wringer when it came to horror movies.

Oh, sweet merciful lord, how wrong I was.

After I spent a few minutes calming myself down I picked up the remote, took a deep breath, and started the movie again. I was immediately struck by how… I suppose the word is “careful” the filmmaking was. The first scene is scary as fucking hell, even years on and having seen it multiple times when I watched it this week I still jumped at the right spots, though not as high. After that, though, Verbinski works very hard to construct what for lack of a better word is a very “real” movie: single mother, precocious kid, grieving friends, broken relationships, everyone trying to come to terms with the death of a teenage girl in a depressing, rain-drenched landscape.

Once you get past that first scene things move along pretty swimmingly, actually, until the first time we see the tape.

The tape isn’t that scary in and of itself. It’s off-putting and weird and vaguely unpleasant but there’s nothing on there to make you scream. But watching it along with Rachel – and you do just watch the tape with the character, there’s only one cut away from it the first time it’s shown and it’s at a perfect spot – a sense of foreboding builds and builds and builds, and Rachel’s reaction just makes it somehow worse.

The worst part, though, is that you KNOW that phone is going to ring and you KNOW there’s going to be that horrible voice, and the anticipation of that happening is FAR worse than the actual event – face it, it’s a phone ringing – but through some genius alchemy Verbinksi holds that moment for JUST long enough that when it happens you still jump out of your seat. Because you are weak and while you are sitting in front of The Ring, Gore Verbinski is God. Worse, he is an all-powerful god of fear and you have severely displeased him.

Once you’ve seen the tape the movie proceeds as… I don’t want to say a “standard” horror movie, because it isn’t, if there even is such a thing. But it follows a known arc, at the very least. Mysterious happenings abound, Rachel investigates, things escalate from mysterious to dangerous to horrifying, the stakes are raised, questions are asked and answered, and eventually there is a horror- and emotion-packed climax. Make no mistake, though – everything up to this point has been executed with nothing less than stunning precision.

This is just how incredibly well-made the movie is:

Sitting there watching it, about halfway through the movie – around when Rachel arrives on the island – my phone rang. For the second time in less than two hours I literally JUMPED out of the recliner and started screaming incoherently. It wasn’t just the shock of the noise – I was absolutely certain that a ringing phone meant I WAS GOING TO DIE.

I clumsily grabbed the remote and paused the film, then grabbed a quick look at the display on my cell. It was my friend Chris.

I flipped open the phone and started screaming.

“YOU MOTHERFUCKER! OH MY GOD YOU MOTHERFUCKER! YOU SCARED THE LIVING FUCK OUT OF ME! YOU FUCKING MOTHERFUCKER OH MY FUCKING GOD!”

Chris said, “what? What did I do?”

I sputtered, “you… you… you fucking CALLED me! Oh my god I thought I was going to fucking DIE!”

Chris said, “what the hell are you doing?”

Starting to calm down, I said, “I’m watching The Ring.”

Chris said, “oh, Jesus Christ, I’m sorry, I’m REALLY sorry.”

His contrition was genuine: he’d seen the movie.

It goes beyond precision, really. Everything in The Ring is note-perfect, and part of its brilliance is the way we get drawn into the quest along with Rachel. We carry along and experience with her the feeling that, after you watch the tape, the entire world is just increasingly WRONG and the movie becomes as much about setting reality right as it is saving herself. Still, though, it IS a horror movie, and once everything has been set in place the aforementioned climax has to happen, and there are scares and moments of swelling emotion and finally release, and when Rachel says “I want to go home,” you sit there, exhausted, and say to yourself “god DAMN that was a great fucking movie!”

But, and this is the true genius of The Ring, the movie doesn’t end there.

After what would be the climactic final battle of a lesser movie – hell, of a perfectly respectable movie – The Ring yet has manipulations profane and sublime in store. In what is supposed to be the happy denouement between casually estranged mother and son, finally united against a cruel world, when Aidan says “why did you do that” your stomach drops and your flesh starts to crawl and you realize that everything up to that moment has just been the movie playing with you, TOYING with you, and that what’s about to come is going to be worse than you could possibly imagine.

And oh GOD does it come, and oh GOD is it worse than your wildest nicotine patch nightmares. I’ve watched a great white shark terrorize Amity Island, I’ve watched Michael Myers stalk Laurie Strode, I’ve watched Regan McNeil defile a crucifix, and for however visceral and truly horrifying those things are (and they most assuredly are), none of them, and indeed nothing I’d ever seen before or have since since or will likely ever see again, none of them come close to the sheer, abject terror of the penultimate scene of The Ring. I spent the entire scene desperately trying to get away from what was on my television, trying to scramble up and over the back of the recliner, trying to look away, moaning, “no, no, no” over and over again, but I was fixed to the spot. I couldn’t get away. I couldn’t not look at it.

You can very easily get all film-school-literary-studies-major douchebag about The Ring, talk about Verbinski’s repetition of imagery and use of color, or talk about how it uses the supernatural to demonstrate the threat of technology or how it presents a case for the empowerment of women or one of a host of lit-crit theory crap, and you’d have fertile ground on which to plant your bullshit lit-crit douchebag arguments, and all those things are true. Verbinski goes out of his way to create a real, artistic, serious “literary” movie, and he succeeds, and all those things apply. But for all it’s artistic merit – and it is fucking well brimming with it – the bottom line on The Ring is that penultimate scene. It is the pure distillation of horror in movie form. And I don’t mean in terms of gore or violence or blood. There aren’t any. I mean just stark, basic, amygdala-shattering terror. It is the single most frightening thing I’ve ever seen on film.

And I couldn’t look away.

JLK

Posted in movies | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »