In 2002, the words “seven days” became one of the most frightening phrases in the English language, and it was all thanks to Gore Verbinski. Yes, the director of MouseHunt also directed one of the most disturbing horror films of the 2000s, The Ring. What could have simply been a quickie knock-off of a Japanese horror film became a movie sensation, spawning two more films and a fear of unmarked VHS tapes among people of all ages. But what about The Ring behind the scenes? Was it as spooky to make the film as it is to watch it? Did Verbinski go out of his way to make sure the film wasn’t just The Ring US, or did he luck into his terrifying masterwork? You’ll have to keep reading to find out.
The Ring remake launched a series of J-Horror remakes that followed the playbook of making surreal films with spooky children, but none of them had the loose, dreamlike psychological terror that’s inherent in Verbinski’s The Ring. As you’ll learn while reading The Ring trivia, the director made sure that he disconnected his version of the film from the original movie but made sure to maintain the unnerving visual presence of menace that makes the original film so terrifying. By creating his own surreal visual palette, Verbinski was able to parallel the story of the original film while making something that was wholly his own. After you finish reading these crazy facts you didn’t know about the American version of The Ring, make sure you pass it on to some friends, you never know what could happen in seven days.
Throughout the film, there are multiple subliminal images present. Between some scenes, if you slow the footage down, you'll see a frame or two of Samara's view from inside the well. Also, after Noah is killed by Samara, if you apply the same footage-slowing technique that you used earlier, you'll see images from the killer video played in quick succession. Aside from those quick shots, there's also a circular motif that can be seen throughout the film, namely on innocuous pieces of the set like wallpaper and the bedspread in the first scene.
This probably isn't a shock in the age of viral marketing, but prior to the actual trailer for The Ring being released early in 2002, there were multiple late-night commercial spots that were filled with Samara's killer video from the film. Can you imagine being up late and seeing that on TV? Yikes, no thanks.
So you know that tree that's in Samara's video which Naomi Watts's character finds? It turns out that Verbinski and his team didn't go out and find the perfect tree; they just built their own and moved it around with them from set to set. The crew nicknamed the tree - built from steel tubing and plaster - "Lucille," and it might have been cursed. Production designer Tom Duffield offered up this story from the shoot:
Every time we put it up, the wind would come up and blow it over. In Washington, we put it up three separate times, only to have it knocked over by nearly 100-mile-an-hour wind gusts. We tried it again in Los Angeles when it wasn't windy at all, and that night we had 60-mile-an-hour winds that blew it down all over again. It was very strange.
According to multiple interviews with Gore Verbinski, he wanted to differentiate the film from the third-wave slasher films that were being released around the same time (Jason X, Joy Ride, Valentine), so he made sure that the film took on more of a gothic look and leaned into the Pacific Northwest's natural gloominess (Verbinski's version is set in Seattle). And while many horror movies from around that time are mostly a series cluttered messes, Verbinski's frames are well structured and clean. At the time of the film's release, he said, "I believe shot construct in this genre is so much a part of the creep factor. And sound is its partner. So the film is intentionally somewhat clinical."