I lied. Worse still, I lied to Kindertrauma! A while back Kindertrauma ran a series called “It’s a Horror to Know You!” wherein readers answered a series of kindertrauma-related questions and the results were posted for all to see. One of the questions asked “What is the last film that scared you?” My answer to that question was “The Blair Witch Project” (1999).
The BWP did scare me and if the question had been “What was the last film that caused you to run wildly in panic?” my answer would have been 100% accurate. That wasn’t the question though, was it?
I hereby humbly submit my amended answer and beg your forgiveness:
What is the last film that scared you? “The Ring” (2002).
Yup. The Ring. The American remake of the J-horror classic. As I was filling out my “Horror to Know You” responses, I knew deep in my heart that I should have admitted that The Ring scared me but I did not. Like Beatrix Kiddo, in searching for a reason why she had failed to tell Bill that Pai-Mei had taught her the Five-Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique, the only reason that I can think of for failing to admit my fear is, “I don’t know…because I’m a bad person.”
The reason that I lied probably has something to do with the fact that one of my friends, a notorious scaredy-cat named Stacey, saw The Ring a few days after I did and thought that it was absurd and “not scary at all.” I couldn’t believe it – I was sure that she would be a crumpled mess after seeing The Ring and the fact that she was not scared by it caused me to re-imagine my own reaction to it and on some level I had convinced myself that I also found it “not scary at all”.
But it did scare me. No, strike that – it downright disturbed me. I had actually seen the original “Ringu” before The Ring, so I knew what was coming, and as I left the local Cineplex with my wife I felt entertained but that was the extent my immediate reaction.
However, over the next few days I developed this sensation of creeping doom. For those somehow not familiar with The Ring, the basic premise is that there exists a cursed videotape and anyone who views it experiences six days of strange events followed by a gruesome death on the seventh. The videotape ends with the image of an old stone well that hides a dark secret. I’m a super-rational guy but I could not help but see “dark omens” everywhere. We had a red maple in the back yard of our house that was a near-replica of the “flaming tree” in the film and it glowed with menace in the evening light. Mirrors broke. Files vanished off of my computer. Some of my photos had odd imperfections. I heard strange noises at night.
A week later I went fishing at a place near Bloomington, Indiana (where I was living) called Greene’s Bluff. At a bend in the river, there are the ruins of an old grain mill from the 1880s. By that time I was pretty much back to normal and feeling a little foolish for being so creeped-out by a movie. I passed the Civil-War era graveyard next to the parking area without concern. I hiked down to the river bend and looked for a place to fish. I decided to try a spot a little ways upstream and cut across the woods to get to it. Thirty feet in, I saw some old limestone bricks and then I saw some more. There were some extra ruins that must have been associated with the mill there. At first I thought this was all very interesting…
And then I saw it: The Well. A round circle of ancient stone set into the ground. I experienced an out-of-body moment, frozen in place as my disembodied mind did the arithmetic to total the amount of time that had passed since I watched The Ring: Eight days. Wait – Eight days? Reality returned. I walked over to the well and saw that it was long ago filled in. The spell was broken.
It seems like The Ring gets a lot of flack these days. It was followed by a very mediocre sequel and kicked off a marathon of inferior American J-horror remakes. I’ll admit that the film has some flaws (some hammy acting, post-processing overkill) but in my opinion, it is still an effective and very scary film that worked its curse on me for a week in the Fall of 2002.