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Enough with the precocious children already. Just like The Shining, The Sixth Sense, and too many other horror movies, The Ring gets its willies from a creepy kid. Actually, two: one who acts like a 40-year-old man and one who looks like Cousin Itt. They apparently have a psychic connection—though the hairy one’s dead—but that’s not really important here. What’s more significant is how technology has changed the milieu of ghosts and their hunters: Somehow, it’s now possible to make evil videotapes from the netherworld, and when those among the living want the dirt on what’s haunting them, they needn’t look further than Google. In other words, if the very idea behind The Ring—that seven days after watching a mysterious movie, full of nightmarish images of burning trees and never-ending ladders and other dada crap, the viewer will die—doesn’t seem ridiculous to you, there’s plenty in its fleshing out to seal the deal. Like the far superior The Others, The Ring is to be commended for offering plenty of old-fashioned suspense and little gore, but the further the story progresses, the less sense it makes. The film starts off promisingly, with a Scream-like scene of two teenage girls, one of whom has seen the tape, talking about its legend and slowly scaring the bejesus out of each other. After the girl dies, her journalist aunt, Rachel (Naomi Watts), is asked to use her reporterly talents to investigate. Rachel soon enlists the convenient help of Noah (Martin Henderson), a video expert who’s also the father of her eerily adultlike son (David Dorfman). Together, they discover—well, not exactly the origins of the tape, but the people and the corpse involved. And that it all has something to do with Samara (Daveigh Chase), the evil little Itt girl, who was drowned by her crazy mom and now “just wants to be heard.” Points to anyone who can figure out why, if this is indeed Samara’s goal, she mystically produced a video with no message from her whatsoever and then kills whoever sees it. Indeed, the most frustrating aspect of the film is that after an hour-and-a-half of ably leading the audience to wonder why, why, why, director Gore Verbinski and screenwriter Ehren Kruger provide no real answers—or even allow their many clues to fit together. The Ring is a remake of the 1998 Hideo Nakata film Ringu, and many of the details that might leave this movie’s audience scratching their Hollywood-addled heads probably make more sense in the context of Japanese notions of parallel spiritual and physical worlds. But when Samara actually crawls out of a TV as a snowy silhouette to scare her final victim to death, the idea of death by bad movie will no longer seem all that improbable—even to dumb Americans. —Tricia Olszewski