‘The Ring’ – The American take on Japanese horror on Prime Video, Paramount+ and MGM+

The original Ringu (Japan, 1998) was a more than a hit; the unnerving horror film was a phenomenon in Japan and all over Asia. Gore Verbinski’s remake The Ring (2002) is faithful to both the story and the style, and the result is one of the most genuinely eerie American horrors in years.

Naomi Watts plays Rachel Keller, a Seattle newspaper reporter and single mother who stumbles onto the urban legend of a “killer” videotape. She tracks it to a remote cabin where she finds an unmarked videotape. As the urban legend goes, anyone who watches the tape will die in seven days, which gives her a countdown once she pops the tape into her VCR.

It’s all just a scoop to her, a story to investigate, until her schoolboy son (David Dorfman) watches the tape and gets his own supernatural death sentence. As he sinks into a ghostly pallor and a haunting weariness and starts sketching images of a demonic spirit, Rachel teams up with her ex (Martin Henderson) to track horrific story behind the tape and the creepy images that carry the curse.

It’s a mix of old-fashioned ghost story and Asian horror eeriness. Verbinski keeps the atmosphere of dread from Hideo Nakata’s original as well as some of his most distinctive visual ideas: the jerky, video-stutter style of the flashbacks, the weird, unsettling tape imagery, and the way the faces on photographs mutate and blur. The Seattle setting gives it overcast skies and days dripping with drizzle and Verbinski directs with a patient, cool approach that brings a quiet stillness to his scenes that carries its own sense of unease. Verbinski and screenwriter Ehren Kruger go out of their way to explain where the Japanese original left mystery and suggestion, but they also create some original moments of otherworldly evil breaking into the natural world.

Best to go in knowing as little of the plot as possible. This modern take on the classic curse tale offers twists best experienced without anticipation, and Verbinski creates a mood of uneasy tension that pays off as horror erupts out of everyday experiences. The Ring is out to scare you, yes, but it’s also intent on creeping you out and sending chills down your spine. And true to the original, it doesn’t shy away from the moral lines parents will cross to protect their child, or the damage left in their wake.

Brian Cox, Jane Alexander, and Amber Tamblyn costar.

Rated PG-13

Streams for a limited time on Prime Video and on Paramount+ and on MGM+ and streams free for a limited time on Hoopla, which is available through most public and college library systems.

Also on Blu-ray and DVD and on SVOD through Amazon Video, iTunes, GooglePlay, Vudu and/or other services. Availability may vary by service.
The Ring (2002) [Blu-ray]
The Ring (2002) [DVD]
The Ring / The Ring Two (2-Movie Collection) [DVD]
The Ring / The Ring Two / Rings (3-Movie Collection) [DVD]

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The Blu-ray and DVD releases feature an “experimental” film by director Gore Verbinski accessed through the “Don’t Watch This” button on the menu.


Sean Axmaker is a Seattle film critic and writer. He writes the weekly newspaper column Stream On Demand and the companion website, and his work appears at RogerEbert.com, Turner Classic Movies online, The Film Noir Foundation, and Parallax View.

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