When Bad Things Happen To Good People

Saw The Ring last night.  It’s the kind of horror movie I prefer; that is, not a morality play. Many films grouped into the horror genre either imply or explicitly state that their protagonists deserve the fates that befall them; they have sinned in some small or large way.  These are nothing more than jumped-up fairy tales that allow viewers the vicarious thrill of fear followed by feeling superior to the fallen victims.  This is perfectly acceptable for children, the typical target demographic for such films.

Adult horror, on the other hand, befalls the innocent as well as the guilty.  While the horrified characters in The Ring have flaws, neither do their flaws bring the horror upon them nor does repairing their flaws lead to their salvation.  The evil in The Ring both has a specific cause and is ultimately inexplicable.  The film might have taken another hour to contrive a fuller explanation, but I think the film’s effect would have been blunted thereby.  That the viewer is not mired in confusion is a testament to the ready belief in evil that marks a horror fan.

The Ring does engage in the trappings of the horror genre—suspenseful music, dread-inducing framing, startling quick cuts—but they are kept to a minimum.  The pacing and dialogue are spot-on, and cinematographer Bojan Bazelli seems to find the woods and islands of Puget Sound as spooky as I often do.  The imagery has stayed with me, and although the specificity of the narrative makes the full horror less portable, it remains as unnerving as a captionless Edward Gorey drawing.

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