FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Oct 14, 2006


Man, do I feel like a wimp! I had a mere two movies left to watch. Two! I chose The Ring because the other one...well, the idea of watching it all alone in the middle of the night in a dark, quiet house freaked me out. Had I made it through The Ring, I would've given it a shot for your sakes, but as it is, I made it to the scene where Naomi Watts falls down the well and then I passed out like a sorority girl after a night of butterscotch schnapps. I woke up disoriented and bleary-eyed, but a single thought managed to break through the haze: "Review...must"- I don't know whether to simply shake my head in disgust, or punch myself in the face in wicked disgust. Regardless, the final film on my list will just have to wait.

Anyone who doesn't know the story of The Ring (2002) has surely been living in a well themselves for some years now, but for the record, the premise is simple: Watch this creepy videotape and seven days later you will die.

Undoubtedly, the J-horror remakes and "dead girl with long black hair" flicks have been done to death, to the point where filmmakers (Asian or American) would have to come up with something pretty revelatory to get me to feel like I hadn't been there before. For me, however, The Ring came first. It was a revelation.

Because this marathon was all about some of my favorite horror movies, I get to tell you boring stories about them and you can't do anything about it. Ha! Anyway, I saw The Ring the first time in a theatre in the middle of nowhere, Pennsylvania during a weekend getaway. The theatre was packed, and I figured I was in for an experience something akin to the first time I saw Scream, which was basically a riot- people yelling and talking at the screen. For Scream it was the perfect atmosphere, but I didn't think it would work for The Ring. I was completely shocked, however, the the theatre fell silent during the first 15 minutes of the film and stayed quiet for the duration. That never happens with these kids today! I was all ready to shake my fists at them and everything, but the movie held the entire audience in thrall. It was, in a word, bitchin'.

Much later that night in the hotel, after everyone had fallen asleep, I woke up and hit the bathroom. Not wanting to wake anyone, I left the lights off. When I got back to bed, I lay there awake for quite some time, terrified. I swear to you, placing my right hand on a copy of Son of Mad Libs, that I couldn't and wouldn't open my eyes because I was convinced that Samara was in the room, an inch from my face, staring at me. I was absolutely petrified. Of course it's completely ridiculous in retrospect, pretty much to the point of embarassment. I give you all total permission to laugh at me, but my god...that feeling is exactly why I watch horror movies. It had been a long, long time since I'd had that severe a reaction to a horror movie- it's a rare thing, excruciating and somehow pleasurable all at the same time. Sort of like watching Walker, Texas Ranger. You're never sure if you're going to make it out the other side of the experience alive.

The film loses impact with each viewing, and while I do still find it supremely creepy, Samara no longer keeps me awake at night...last night (or earlier this morning, if you want to be a technical about it. Why do you always have to be such a stickler for such things?) is evidence of that. There's still so many aspects of this movie that I love, however, and it remains a pleasure to watch.

-I love the piecing-together-the-puzzle angle. It makes me feel like Jessica Fletcher, but in a good way, unlike my bursitis.

-I love that Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts) isn't really a good mom. She's selfish, a tad neglectful, and...human. She loves her son, but she doesn't really get the whole mom thing right. I've read that this character flaw is exactly why Jennifer Connolly (Requiem for a Dream) turned down the role, for which I stick my middle finger up at Jennifer Connolly.

-I love the timeline/deadline method of storytelling. Some folks gripe that it lessens the impact of events because you know nothing's really gonna happen for seven days. I think it heightens the drama...the urgency builds as the clock counts down and Rachel tries to figure shit out.

-I love the way the film looks, the blue tones and the pervasive rain. I do so like it when filmmakers pay attention to the work as a whole and not just the money shots.

-I love how unsettling the film can be at times. Anyone who's undisturbed by the horse sequence is...I don't know, a robot or something.

-I love that the film turns "ghost story" conventions inside out. Samara cannot be appeased; she won't disappear when you put her soul to rest. She has no soul. She's pure evil, seeking only to hurt others. Setting her free does just that- she's out and she hates you.

-I love Noah's (Martin Henderson) death sequence. The first time I saw Samara coming out of the TV, it was like having the floor pulled out from under me.

-I love Naomi Watts

I know the movie has a fair number of detractors, or people for whom it simply had no impact. They're crazy, of course, but that's ok. That's their trip. For me, whenever I see a horror movie for the first time, I try my best not to be cynical or jaded. Maybe I'm a simpleton, I don't know...but I try very hard to be a clean slate, to get in the mindset of my ten-year-old self, where anything and everything can be scary, where that little noise I might have heard might just be something waiting to get me. In other words, I try to get sucked in to the moment as much as possible, to let the movie sort of...take over. Sometimes the film still fails miserably and there's nothing you can salvage. But sometimes, every once in a while, a movie will affect me like The Ring- and that...that's just sort of magic, isn't it? A little? If you're not willing to have an innocence about these films, to allow yourself to have the intended reaction, to allow yourself to be scared by them, then really...what else is there? There's really no joy in watching people get killed, even if it's all a put-on. It's the tightening of the gut and the feeling that's the thing.


Amanda By Night said...

This is another movie we'll have to disagree on. It was a fair disappointment for me as I thought that each scene (and I mean EVERY single one) started with an immense feeling of dread but by the end of that scene, it had petered out and left me just empty. That was a really strange film for me. I understood what they were trying to do, but I couldn't give myself to it. Granted, I'm not really into J-Horror and I think after we were barraged with girls with wet hair, I just kind of got bored. I really need to see more Japanese films because the American remakes are really just hitting what I assume is one part of a sub-genre.

I didn't care for Ms. Watts in this either. I LOVED her in Muholland Drive but here she felt kind of missing to me. Funny how you read it as neglectful and realistic... It's so interesting how one performance can eke out two such varying opinions. Maybe we should watch this together and pause it during key points and discuss...

Amanda By Night

Stacie Ponder said...

What? You disagree with me? AGAIN?? I think you mean we'll pause it and I'll PUSH YOU DOWN!

Naomi Watts is amazing in Mulholland Drive. It's one of the best performances I've ever seen by anyone in anything, ever. She makes that film, in my opinion.

Don't worry, Amanda. Think how boring New Siskel and Ebert would be if they agreed on everything.

How much MORE boring, I mean.

Anonymous said...

I really loved this movie when it first hit, and while I agree that it does lose some of impact on multiple viewings, it's still a damn entertaining movie! It's also one of the few cases, for me at least, where the remake is better than the original.

Rebecca said...


You touched on my favourite aspect of The Ring, the "she's out and she hates you" aspect. I think the Exorcist has this as well, you know that the demon has utter contempt and not a shred of pity. You're convinced of their malice and you know that you wouldn't be spared if you were in the main characters' shoes.

Been enjoying your blog...!

Anonymous said...

I really liked The RING.
I saw it at a friend's house with abunch of people. My wife no longer watches horror movies with me because she's too impressionable an audience. During our courtship, she fooled herself into thinking she could watch horror films with me because she loved me, and actually tried to sit through SCREAM at the theater (several bathroom breaks), JAWS on video (went to the bathroom before the FIRST kill! "This movie's too good! I'll be back!") and even tried to sit through THE EXORCIST.
Now that we're married, she no longer has to impress me anymore, so she passed on the movie night.
I thought the story was so interesting, right up until Naomi Watts was in the bottom of the well, that I thought, "Hey, this story is so strong, my poopsie-pie will actually get into this..." Of course, then there's the ACTUAL ending and I'm like, aw hell no! this'll kill her!
Am very curious to see what the original Japanese version is like.

Chris Hopper said...

I agree with you Stacie. I thought this was a good one. I don't like Naomi Watts as much in this as I did in Tank Girl or Mulholland Drive, but I still think she did well. I liked the effects and the tone of the film, especially in the theater. I watched the Japanese Ring after seeing the US version and was disappointed. I ended up liking this one better which is a real shock. Who can ever forget that horse scene. Yikes!

Steve said...

Everyone tells me the Japanese version is better. Yet to see it, any thoughts?

I must say though, when she comes out of the tv screen, I almost crapped my pants.

Anonymous said...

I had my doubts when I turned it on, but it got to me. I enjoyed it so much that I made other people watch it. I haven't done that since I was an obnoxious teenager.

SikeChick said...

I'm with amanda on this one. I just don't get the appeal of this one. I wasn't spooked even once. I was mostly just bored. Oddly, I saw Ringu later and liked that much better, although not as much as I might have had I not seen this one first. Maybe all of the hype raised my expectations too high.

For some reason, the J-horror films and their American cousins just don't do it for me (exceptions The Eye and One Missed Call). After a while, they all just started to look the same.

Stacie Ponder said...

I watched Ringu once and I have to say I enjoyed the remake more. Maybe it's because I knew everything that was gonna happen and I was sitting there comparing the two flicks rather than being in the moment or something. I should watch it again.

John- welcome, and thanks! I agree with you and cattleworks...the "second ending" was like a slap in the face. I loved it- I honestly never thought ghosts were terribly scary before this movie, in any real "they're going to kill me!" sort of way.

Jason Adams said...

I had the opposite experience, Stacie - I saw Ringu first and LOVED it and was totally freaked out by it, and then saw the remake and felt sorta meh about it; I think it really is a case of which one you saw first, for some reason it doesn't live up the second go-around. The one thing that pissed me off righteously about the remake was the edit during Martin Henderson's death scene where we're taken out of the loft and to Naomi Watts driving to him; in the original there is no edit, it's a long long loooooooong seeming moment of the girl crawling through the screen and slowly crawling after the man (I can't remember the character's names in Ringu, it's been awhile, hence these vague "girl" and "man" usages)... in the original,during this scene, I nearly climbed over the back of my seat. That break in tension in the remake made me ANGRY, very VERY much so.