Friday, March 23, 2012

Horror Mysteries: The Ring (2002) - Who is your Daddy, and what does he do?

The horror of a film like The Ring lies in its ambiguities. There is only one known way to stop yourself from falling victim to the evil Samara which is almost as horrific as Samara herself, you have to pass on the tape. The Ring has succeeded in becoming a generation defining horror film by assaulting our imagination and memory. There was no reprieve, no ability to hide once you'd seen the tape.

The film no longer scares me as it once did but the initial impact of seeing a film where the characters became part of the legend only served to give The Ring a rightful place in the horror cannon. (oh, and full disclosure - I greatly prefer this version to Ringu... Apologies to any purists this might offend...) Sure it's a film that relies greatly on suspension of disbelief, but it's done so with a confident hand which is quite rare. I never felt as though Gore Verbinski was hurrying things up because there were gaping plot holes. For instance, one big question in the series is how the hell did Samara make that first tape? Well, he's a suitably logical answer:

The movie doesn't fully detail Samara's backstory. It is given that Samara was a long awaited for child of a childless couple, Anna and Richard Morgan, and that she possessed the ability of nensha, also known as projected thermography or the ability to imprint her thought images like photographs onto specific surfaces. Her unusual ability, coupled with the fact that she never sleeps, eventually resulted in the townspeople of Moesko Island, including her own parents, feeling very uneasy around her. The more Samara felt alienated by the townspeople, the more she used her powers (another "ring"). Anna finally snapped, suffocated her daughter, and threw her into a well. Years later, Shelter Mountain Inn, specifically Cabin 12, was built over the well. When Katie and her friends stayed at the cabin, they tried to record a football match. However, since the reception is very poor up in the mountains, nothing actually recorded on their tape. Seizing her chance, Samara (whose remains and spirit were trapped in the well beneath the cabin) used her powers to imprint various images onto the tape. She also incorporated a curse: either copy the tape and pass it on or suffer your own death in seven days.

Duh, right? Ok, maybe not. But in the world of that movie, I totally buy it. But... the first couple sentences of that entry detail a much bigger question in the film. What the hell is Samara?

Quick catch up for those of you that haven't seen the film in a while - after you see a video you are told you will have 7 days to live. Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts) sees the video after her niece falls victim to the curse and uncovers the story of Samara Morgan.  The meat and potatoes of the piece is that the Morgans couldn't naturally conceive a child and one day returned to their home with a baby. As the baby grew into a child there were problems on the island where they lived, crops wouldn't grow, horses committed suicide.... the usual. Turns out her adoptive mother semi-suffocated her and threw her down a well. Samara was not actually dead and survived for 7 days at the bottom of the well. Rachel excavates the body thinking she is freeing the soul of a mis-understood child when in reality she has released something much more evil. The only way to survive the second day curse is to make a copy of the tape and show it another person creating a cycle (or ring if you will) of horror!

But this still doesn't answer, what the hell is Samara and why is she so powerful?!

As one person pointed out to me she is a YĆ«rei a ghost from Japanese mythology that still has some business to conduct on earth and is not able to rest until that work is done. The Ring sets us up to believe that, but after Rachel recovers Samara's body she learns all too late that she has just unleashed an evil entity rather than saving the day. Suck it, Naomi Watts. This also only partially answers the question of what Samara is. She was wreaking havoc on people's lives well before she died. 

In the The Ring we learn Samara is adopted. In the Ring 2 Rachel finds Samara's birth mother, Sissy Spacek, who doesn't help matters much because she still just says Samara is evil. However, we are still never who the father is. Here are some revealing theories as to who and what Samara is. 

Theory #1 - The Morgans (Samara's adoptive parents) made a deal with an evil force to have a child.In the Ring 2 we learn that Evelyn (Spacek) tried to exorcise her baby. She is stopped, sent to a mental institution and Samara is put up for adoption. There is a clear sense that whatever or whomever impregnated Evelyn was eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeevil. Think of it as a sequel to Rosemary's Baby....

Theory #2 - She's a demigod. Specifically a water demigod. This is explored in Ringu (original Japanese novel and film) and it's an interesting example of East vs West adaptations and brings together a lot of water imagery in a neat way.

Theory #3 - She's a misunderstood child. This is put forth that Samara had supernatural powers but because Anna and Richard Morgan were unable or unwilling to understand her she became evil. She was a product of her environment. This is also explored in the Japanese prequel.

You weren't supposed to help her.
To be honest, I don't think it really matters. Like other Horror Mysteries I've explored the ambiguity in these movies is half the fun. If we could explain away Samara's evil  that would indicate we could explain her away. And who would want to do that?


  1. Attn: HBA Members,

    Updates, Changes... and No Response you might be considered D.E.A.D.

    "The Horror Blogger Alliance" is having a "Give Blood [Money]" Drive,
    March 10th to April 1st 2012, for
    more details:

    Thank You,
    Jeremy [Retro-Zombie]
    HBA Curator

  2. Never forget the types of people in your live:- who helped you in your difficult times.- who left you in your difficult times.- who put you in difficult times.


    The first to apologise is the bravest. The first to forgive is the strongest. And thw first to forget is the happiest