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The Ring
Reviewed by Harrison Bergeron, © 2002

Format: Movie
By:   Gore Verbinski (director) and Ehren Kruger (screenwriter)
Genre:   Horror
Released:   October 18, 2002
Review Date:   October 09, 2002
Audience Rating:   Rated PG-13
RevSF Rating:   8/10 (What Is This?)
It's been seven days now, seven days, seven days, sevendayssevendayssevendayssevenday, and I don't have much time left, a few hours, if it dates to the phone callringringringringringring, so I need to get this down before, before, well, before you know. Before it takes me.

Whatever you do, don't see The Ring. I mean, I know what they'll say. They'll say they'll say "it's just a movie" they'll say. That's what you'll say too. You'll pay for your ticket. It's just a movie. You'll sit in your seat. It's just a movie. And you'll watch it. You might be scared a little. You might be creeped out. Your date might hold your hand tight. The girl two seats behind you will whimper. The man hunched over just in front of you will be mumbling to himself. But whatever happens, whatever you see, you'll say, it's just a movie, justamovie. I should know. I mean, that's what I said. That's what I thought.

I was wrong. And now . . . God, I took Alex with me too, why did I take take Alex, well, tell me, tell me, how was I supposed to know? And now she's just sitting there fsdalkjoiuxclkjeerw sitting there brushing her hair, brushing her hair, brush, brush, brush, brush . . . . I can hear her in the next room now. She's been brushing her hair for hours, how many, four, five, six, I've lost track. I tried to take the brush away from her once, gently tried to take it away, hushed her, soothed her, pried it from her fingers. panic came into her eyes like a spooked horse, and she screamed, not a full-out scream, but a kind of muddled half-laughing scream. I gave her the brush back.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. I got tickets in the mail for an early screening of The Ring. I couldn't actually remember requesting tickets, but, hell, free movie, right? It's this movie with Naomi Watts from Mulholland Drive, about this videotape. You see it, and after seven days, you die, and whatever . . . I'd just seen a movie, FearDotcom, same premise (and they are, but the premise is only part of something. What's important is the execution, execution, execution): You visit a web site, 48 hours later, you're dead. A mess. Some disturbing imagery, good camerawork, but storywise . . . crap. Went to the website too. Do you like to watch? Do you want to hurt me? Waste of time.

And this one opened like a lame teen horror movie, not interested, thanks. But then it changed . . . And, sure, there's that whole question. If you've heard it's going to kill you, why watch it, why even take the chance? It's because, in the real world, no one believes in stupid things like that. Nothing strange has ever happened to me, why should it start now? There are no mysteries left, no un-namable horrors just out of sight, waiting to scrape at you and rend . . . . It's that, and it's Adam and Eve two. It's us, it's what killed the cat, it's self-destruction and stupidity. There are so many wonderful things in the garden, but put a sign on it, "Don't go there", "Beware", "No trespassing", "Don't disturb", "Forbidden", and then people are lining up like carny marks to see Barnum's mythic Egress. But no one warned me. No oneÖ it's not fair. It's alkj dncnm ,.znouo welna ds ,nczlkj eoijdsafj.

It hurts to type. I pulled my fingernails out. I don't know why. They're stacked neatly on my desk, still drying, next to the gray needle-nosed pliers given to me by an old man in another lifetime. My computer's getting a little unlooked for snack. Even now, if I push on a key too hardddddddddddddddd, the red spills out, running down the sides of each little plastic button into the dark spaces below.

So there was the movie. The glare of the lights of a sanitarium. The endless ladder, the flaming tree, the animals lying on sand like the stinking hulks of beached whales. The immense liquid eye, like a swelling sore of crude oil, like a bubble of night about to burst.

It's a lot to get from a movie, a PG-13 movie, but of course it is, you get a wider audience that way. I figured it out once, I wrote it down, just let me find it . . . here . . . even a modest opening week, $15 million, at $7 ticket average . . . that's 2,142,857 people who've seen it before the first batch drops dead bzzzzz bzzzzz bzzzzz plop, maybe even more before it hits the news. But then, maybe the people who made the movie don't know about it. Maybe its just that, in the 90 or so minutes of that movie, there's just enough, a minute, or a few seconds of what is real, just enough of the truth caught in those frames of celluloid . . . to open the door. How could they know? After all, it's only a movie

When we got out of the theater, I said casually to Alex, with a smirk on my face, "So, what do you want to do with our last seven days?". Funny, ha ha. Funny like the unthinking joke you make when someone's late for something . . . "maybe he's dead" and immediately you wish you hadn't breathed those words, wished you could take it back, because maybe he did die, or maybe he's not dead yet, maybe he's falling into his grave right now, and maybe you pushed him just by saying "maybe he's dead."

The drive home was as silent as a mouse. When I put the key in the lock, the very second it slid into place, the phone rang. I pulled the key from the lock, took Alex's hand, turned around, and headed away from the door. "I haven't checked the mail today," I said. Liar. When we got back, there was a message. I never checked it. It's still there, a blinking red eye, trying to see through the notepad I threw over the answering machine on day two.

No one's called here since that night. Not . . . one . . . single . . . ring.

It started off simply enough. Shapeless fevered dreams, turning the pillow over to a side that's unsoaked by the salt of sweat. Running out of dry sides long before morning. Things easy to dismiss. The terrified distant screams really just the sounds of children on a playground several blocks away. The whispers really just a combination of wind and the swish of cars on the road below. That knocking, scraping, trickle of unidentifiable sound, just the neighbors, just the pipes, just the sound of plaster settling. But soon, telling yourself that the low moan is just a ancient bicycle, just a squeaky swingset . . . it doesn't do any good, even if it could be true.

The third day, after I showered, I drew a ring on the fogged up mirror in the bathroom. I guess I thought it would be a good joke. It'd appear on the mirror when Alex showered, she'd get a fright, I'd tell her it was me . . . and the spell would be broken. We'd have a good laugh and that'd be the end of it. No more sdiouem asfidf iofsalkdn oiena foi aei. But it was hard to make myself touch the mirror. It took me a minute or two just to psych myself up. As I reached closer, I suddenly feared that when I touched it, my fingers would sink through the surface . . . but it was solid enough. I made the ring with my index and middle fingers, sweeping away the condensation in a vaguely circular route. When I was finished, I smiled into my clouded reflection as if to prove I'd conquered something.

I never got to see my practical joke come out. That night, we woke with a start. The bathroom mirror was cracked, a thousand tiny hairline fractures running through it like silk threads.

It got worse after that. Every sound was a veiled threat, veiled like a bride, veiled like a widow. I heard the hypnotic tinkle of the ice cream truck, and looked out the window. He was there, selling the children his wares. He had no eyelashes, and at the end of each heavy lid was a row of tiny needle teeth that sank deep into the purple skin under his eyes as he winked at me. After that came the cat with the hollow face. And the row of dead flies lining up on the windowsill. One new one each day. Seven of them now. Seven little black flies all in row. The last one's legs twitchingggggggggggggggggggggggggggg

Once, Alex found me on the steps, slowly wrapping thread around around the fingers of my left left hand between the first and second knuckle. I had just finished with the blue spool, and was about to start on the green. It had seemed like a perfectly normal thing to do at the time, but then Alex pulled the spool of thread out of my hand and started shaking me, I looked down and saw the tips of my fingers, purple and engorged with blood, like five drops of ichor caught in that moment right before they ripen and fall . . . . I woke up on the couch. Alex had dragged me there, and fallen asleep trying to keep watch.

They sent her home from work yesterday after she went into the video conference room and smashed the television screens. I hadn't complained the day before when she took a hammer to ours. Akjdlkjfd nmcmnl ejosdnmsm dslj eoij,mc. After they told her that maybe she could come back to work after she got some help, she laughed at them and started walking toward the elevatorhahahahahahahahahahhahahahahhahahaha. She didn't stop laughing until she pulled into the garage at home.

I took a walk. To try to clear my head Thick like syrup thick Hidjd eioodm in the oijdm ofp theod xoiem. But . . . every person on the street . . . I could see myself scooping their soft eyes out with two hooked fingers, or with a thumb, or with my teeth, or with a tongue like a thorn made of muscle. I'd say, "It's okay. Don't be afraid. It's for your own good . . . " Their screams chased me for blocks. Tendons and gristle, tendons and gristle. Gristle bristle gristle bristle;alsjdkfffuoiiiiiiiix

It's bad now. Badbadbadbadbadbadbadbad. Alex is still brushing, brushingbrushingbruising There are things crawling in the walls, scratching around, trying to find their way into my skull, burning like barns. Sometimes they mewl and spit and growl Sometimes they scream like rabbits. You never think that rabbits can scream, oh but they can, they can. I plugged my ears, but I can still hear themmmmmmmmm. I got some cotton balls, and used a toothpick to push them as far as I could into my head. The cotton soaks up most of the blood, but aoimc, oiemd oajena oomciema ia fajd. Sdoijcaioejf;adszxvcewf endless and blank like the pepper snow on screen, listen, you can here the hssssssscchchhcsssssss burrowing burrowing borrowing time sadkfi cjidsje aeiojld You don't want to hurt people eoijanceiojoococc ccwjhsschchch But I do, and I'm sorry for that hssssssssschhhhhhhhhh hollow hollow hollow hollow hllw hllw hllw hllw hllw I'm so sorry, Alex, God, I'm sososososososososososososoosososorry It's okay. Everything's going to be okay. It's over hssssssschcssssssss but, you don't understand you don't understand you don't understand SHE NEVER SLEEPS

Harrison Bergeron was an occasion contributor to RevolutionSF.

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