The Ring is the first film of the American remake franchise, based on the Japanese Ringu film series. It was directed by Gore Verbinski, written by Ehren Kruger, and was released by DreamWorks Pictures.
The film focuses on journalist Rachel Keller investigating the death of her niece Katie Embry. Her investigation leads her to Shelter Mountain Inn where she finds a video tape. After watching it, she is telephoned by a mysterious voice telling her she has seven days to live. Rachel investigates the video's origins with help from her ex-boyfriend Noah Clay and their son Aidan Keller, discovering the dark past of the video's creator and must find her before her seven days are up.
Two teenage girls Katie Embry and Becca spend a rainy evening together at Katie's house. Becca tells Katie of a rumour of a cursed video tape tha kills people a week after they watch it. Katie expresses shock at this, revealing she watched said tape whilst at Shelter Mountain Inn with boyfriend Josh Turnadot and friends Scott Conroy and Stacey Nyugen for the weekend. The two girls laugh it off until the telephone rings, Becca realising the tape does exist. The two are relieved when the caller is Ruth Embry, Katie's mother. Becca heads upstairs but Katie finds the television downstairs on but when she repeatedly turns it off it turns itself back on. Katie returns upstairs, finding water in the hallway coming from her bedroom. She opens her door and is attacked and killed by an unknown force.
Three days on, journalist Rachel Keller picks up her son Aidan from school who has been affected by Katie's death. Aidan's teacher reveals that Aidan has been drawing sketches of a dead Katie a week before she died. That night, Aidan reveals to Rachel that Katie told him she would die. The next day is Katie's funeral, Rachel and Aidan attending. Ruth approaches Rachel, asking her to find out how and why Katie died after finding her daughter's corpse in a closet with a deformed face. Rachel learns from some teenagers at the funeral that Becca was put in a mental hospital, and the other people who watched the tape are dead. Aidan visits Katie's room, followed by Rachel who finds a ticket for a photo print appointment. She prints a number of photos taken by Katie and her friends when they were at Shelter Mountain Inn, but finds one photo which has Katie and co. with blurred faces. Further research reveals to Rachel that the four teenagers who died all passed on at 10pm, Josh apparently committing suicide by jumping off a building, and Scott and Stacey died in a car crash.
Rachel goes to Shelter Mountain, locating the video tape. She goes inside Cabin 12 where Katie and co. stayed, and plays the tape. The video shows a sequence of random yet disturbing scenes before ending, and then the cabin's telephone rings. Rachel answers it and a girl's voice cryptically says "Seven days" before hanging up. A frightened Rachel runs out of the cabin taking the tape with her. The next day, a Thursday, Rachel invites Noah Clay, her ex-boyfriend and Aidan's father, to look at the tape, Noah being a photographer and media analyst. Noah is unfazed by the tape but asks Rachel to make a copy of the tape. On Friday, Rachel copies the tape at the news office where she works and brings both tapes to Aidan's apartment. Noah is confused by the copy's lack of a control track. The two spot an image on the tape's overscan area but cannot investigate it due to the arrival of Noah's friend Beth, Rachel making a hasty exit.
On Saturday, Rachel visits Becca in a mental hospital who cryptically tells her that a "she" will tell her what the tape means and she only has four days left. Rachel visits a video editing facility to better examine the tape, finding an image of a lighthouse in the tape's overscan. However, Rachel pauses the video and finds a fly recorded on the tape still moving and she manages to pull it right off the screen into her hand, and gets a nosebleed. Noah also begins to experience strange occurences, his face singularly blurred in a shop's security feed. On Sunday, Rachel investigates the lighthouse at the library, identifying it as the one on Moesko Island.
Further research online and in the news office's archive allows Rachel to learn the identity of a woman on the video - Anna Morgan, a horse rancher who lived on Moesko Island but committed suicide after her beloved horses were killed and found dead on the island shores under mysterious circumstances, causing the ranch to be quarantined for a while. In a scene only viewable in the DVD release, Noah visits Shelter Mountain and finds the innkeeper dead, having watched the tape. That night, Rachel calls Ruth asking her to look after Aidan whilst she goes to Moesko Island, Ruth asking if the trip is related to Katie. Rachel is unable to answer due to suddenly coughing up an old electrode and wire and her telephone goes dead and water trickles out of it. Rachel checks on Aidan, only to find a girl sitting in a chair with long wet hair covering her face. The girl grabs Rachel's arm and she wakes up in bed, revealing it to be a dream but a burnt handprint has been placed on her arm. Rachel then finds Aidan watching the copied tape and throws it under a chair. Noah rings, revealing he believes Rachel and joins her in the investigation.
On Monday to Tuesday, Rachel prepares to go to Moesko Island, leaving Aidan in Ruth's care and sends Noah to Eola Psychiatric County Hospital to look at Anna's medical record. On the ferry to the island, Rachel reads a newspaper entry on Anna and discovers she has a daughter. Whilst walking through the ferry, Rachel disturbs a horse to the point that it breaks out of its cart and ends up falling over the ferry to its watery grave. Noah breaks into the hospital to read Anna's files, finding other files on her adoptive daughter Samara Morgan. Rachel visits the Morgan Horse Ranch where she interrogates Richard Morgan who denies the existence of a daughter and sends her away. Rachel visits the island's doctor, Doctor Grasnik. Dr. Grasnik explains Anna had numerous miscarriages until she adopted Samara. However, Anna began to experience strange images in her head and was nearly driven mad, believing their came from Samara. Dr. Grasnik sent them to Eola Psychiatric Hospital and assumes Samara is still there.
Noah tries to watch an interview video of Samara but finds the tape missing. At night, Rachel sneaks back into Richard's house and finds the interview tape. A one Doctor Scott interviews Samara who barely speaks but comments that her image burning powers, also known as nensha, won't stop and she believes Richard will leave her at the hospital. Richard appears and prepares to kill himself, telling Rachel that she is doomed and then commits suicide via electrocution in a bath tub. Noah appears and takes a distraught Rachel outside, believing Richard has killed Samara. The two go to the ranch's barn, finding the loft has been converted into a bedroom. Rachel concludes that Samara was put in the barn by Richard to protect Anna but out of anger and envy, she used her powers to drive the horses to suicide. Noah finds a burnt image of a tree on a wall, Rachel recognising it as a tree at Shelter Mountain.
The two race to Shelter Mountain as Wednesday rolls by. With mintues left before sunset and Rachel's time ends, Noah begins to trash the cabin in anger when Rachel gives up, but the two end up finding an old stone well hidden underneath the cabin. Concluding Samara is at the bottom, the two examine the depth of the well only for supernatural water to unscrew nails in the floor and knock Rachel into the well with the cabin's television. Noah races to fetch a hose to use as a rope whilst Rachel flounders around in the well. She finds bits of hair and is suddenly grabbed by an arm.
Having a flashback, Rachel experiences Samara's final moments alive as Anna comes up behind and suffocates her with a garbage bag before pushing her down the well, where she drowns seven days on. Anna then committed suicide by jumping off a nearby cliff. Rachel awakens back in the well and Samara's perfectly preserved corpse rises up into her arms but exposure to the air causes it to rot away quickly. Later, Rachel and Noah sit outside together as the authorities remove Samara's body. Rachel concludes that Samara just wanted to be heard and found, and the two pick up Aidan and return to their separate homes.
The next day, Aidan awakens with Rachel but is horrified to learn that she and Noah let Samara out of the well, revealing he is still cursed by the tap. Rachel panics and tries to contact Noah. In Noah's apartment, Noah is disturbed by his television which repeatedly turns itself on and eventually an image of the well from the tape appears onscreen. Samara crawls out of the well and heads for the screen. Rachel races to Noah's apartment whilst desperately trying to call him. Samara crawls right out of the television and chases Noah across the room until she scares him to death, Rachel arriving moments later to find his corpse.
Distraught and angry, Rachel returns home and destroys the original tape by burning it. She suddenly realises why she survived and not Noah, as he did not copy the tape and show it to someone else - Samara wished for the world to know her pain and copying the tape and spreading it being the best way to achieve this. The films ends with Rachel assisting Aidan in copying the tape, Aidan questioning what happens when they show someone else the tape, Rachel remaining morbidly silent.
- Samara Morgan - Daveigh Chase
- Rachel Keller - Naomi Watts
- Noah Clay - Martin Henderson
- Aidan Keller - David Dorfman
- Richard Morgan - Brian Cox
- Anna Morgan - Shannon Cochran
- Ruth Embry - Lindsay Frost
- Dave Embry - Michael Spound
- Katie Embry - Amber Tamblyn
- Becca - Rachael Bella
- Doctor Grasnik - Jane Alexander
- Beth - Pauley Perrette
- Shelter Mountain Innkeeper - Richard Lineback
- Child Murderer - Chris Cooper
The film's marketing campaign assisted in the film's release. The Ring was well received by audiences and critics alike, and has often been seen as a worthy as a remake of the original Ring film. The film's success paved the way for other American-Japanese remakes of other horror films like The Grudge, Dark Water and One Missed Call. Fans and critics have often commented on the atmosphere and tension used to provide the scares. Some reviewers praised director Gore Verbinski for slowing revealing the plot to keep audiences interested. Some people both praised and criticised the characters, most notably Naomi Watts as Rachel. David Dorfman as Aidan was described as creepy and has been compared to Haley Joel Osment's character in The Sixth Sense. Samara Morgan has become a cult icon but is often compared to her Japanese equivalent Sadako Yamamura.
- Jennifer Connelly who goes on to star in the American remake of Dark Water was offered the role of Rachel Keller, but it was later given to Naomi Watts.
- Actor Chris Cooper was meant to appear in the film as a child murderer, who wished for Rachel to prove his innocence. Rachel would later give him a copy of the tape to watch. His character was ultimately cut from the film but as a nod, a picture of Cooper appears on a newspaper in Noah's apartment before he is killed by Samara.
- The tree seen at Shelter Mountain was artificial, and fell over numerous times during filming.
- Allegedly, the copied tape in the film is a prop used from the Ring films.
- While Moesko Island is fictional, the lighthouse used exists, called Yaquina Head Lighthouse.
- There are several references to Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, most notably the shot of the shower drain owned by Rachel Keller.
- The scene of Samara approaching the television screen in Noah's apartment actually involved Daveigh Chase walking backwards away from the camera. This was also done in Ring when Sadako approaches the screen.