With a stellar opening scene, contagious cinematography (every horror movie aped “The Ring” for years), and genuine scares, “The Ring” endures two decades out for a reason. If anything, time has been even kinder, elevating “The Ring” to something akin to a modern horror masterpiece. The film is aggressively frightening and oppressive, nihilistic in a way that would inspire most post-millennium horror for a while. A considerably less gruesome riff on French Extremism and the colloquial “torture porn” subgenre to come, “The Ring” has little positive to say. Key to those grim ethos is the progenitor of the video cassette curse, Samara Morgan herself.
Daveigh Chase’s Samara comes across at first as a sympathetic and aggressively misunderstood young girl. Glimpsed in expositional archival footage and flashbacks, the early goings suggest Samara was doomed from the start. Her parents isolated her and subjected her to cruel medical care, and her mother, Anna, eventually suffocated her and dropped her body into a well. Only, Samara didn’t die. She survived for seven days, hence the curse’s trademark timeline. Naomi Watt’s investigative journalist Rachel frees Samara in the third act, presuming her to be a victim. Only, this isn’t the case. Samara intends to spread her curse, and Rachel’s actions cost quasi-boyfriend Noah (Martin Henderson) his life. Chase deserves all the credit for the audience investing in Samara’s twisted goals and simultaneous need for sympathy. She’s a horror villain who threatens to break hearts as often as she does to mangle them.