Video Killed The Radio Star

A murderous videotape and a boy who sees visions fail to lift this movie out of the doldrums.

Two high schools girls, home alone one night, are swapping horror stories when one of them recalls an urban legend about a mysterious videotape that kills the viewer seven days after watching it. The other girl claims she’d watched the tape a week ago at a lodge somewhere with three friends. At 10 PM that night she dies of acute anxiety. The other three die too.

The girl’s aunt, Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts), a reporter for a local paper, learns of the killer tape and arrives at the lodge where her niece and her friends first viewed it. Playing the tape, she is consumed by a sequence of gory and esoteric images, followed immediately by a prophetic telephone call announcing her impending death. Determined to crack the code, she examines the tape, and eventually confides in Noah (Martin Henderson), the father of her young son Aiden (David Dorfman). Aiden, a reserved loner, claims to see images that turn out to be apocalyptic, compounded only by his own accidental viewing of the tape. Rachel’s quest leads her to a remote island, the home of a horse trainer, long dead, and reveals strange secrets of dead horses and a creepy child called Samara.

The haunting strains of Hans Zimmer ("Gladiator", "The Rock") have been well placed in this film, where grey is the superseding monotone. Adapted from the Japanese novel by Koji Suzuki, "The Ring" tells of the arcane, of hallucinations and avenging phantoms. Created in a manner that prompts emotional and intellectual processes simultaneously, the film does not reveal itself in entirety, urging the parcel out piecemeal instead. One comes away not completely aware, mulling over the storyline and trying to decipher the numerous emblematic metaphors. Director Gore Verbinski, in trying to emphasize the allure of a predator tape and its corresponding events, pieces scenes gradually induce panic, keeping you expecting the worse. And the worse just gets better with stunningly simulated sequences that simply spell fantasy grotesque. The videotape itself is a run of images, reminiscent of a lengthy nightmare, where certain images are obvious connotations of past occurrences, while others are only devised to evoke the necessary pall.

However, in spite of its seemingly fascinating concept, a storyline riddled with black holes isn’t such a good idea. Clichés abound (trick or trend?) and not infrequently a sense of deja vu prevails. The cast is average par, though if prizes have to be handed out for this one, the director and cinematographer Bojan Bazelli better press their suits.

This article was first published on 29 Jan 2003.