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'The Ring' (2002)
Before embarking on the career-transforming odyssey that was the "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise, Gore Verbinski broke through with this remake of the Japanese horror film "Ringu," a monster financial success that spawned the "J-Horror" craze of the earlier noughties (not to mention a wholly forgettable sequel). More polished than its low-budget inspiration, "The Ring" benefits greatly from Verbinski's penchant for atmosphere-building, not to mention Bojan Bazelli's nightmarishly oppressive cinematography and the eerily effective score by Hans Zimmer. It also gets by more than adequately on the solid central performance of Naomi Watts, just coming off her breakthrough role in David Lynch's "Mulholland Drive" and primed for A-list stardom. Most importantly, the movie is scary as hell, effectively giving every viewer a renewed sense of purpose in discarding that pile of old unmarked VHS tapes sitting in the closet.
- Chris Eggertsen