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Scarecrow on Seattle: THE RING

In appreciation and recognition of Seattle's long and illustrious film history, we are proud to partner with the Seattle Office of Film + Music to bring you reviews of movies made in the Pacific Northwest with an emphasis on how these films showcase the region's many filmable locations.

The Ring (2002)

The Ring is an Americanized adaptation of Ringu, a 1998 Japanese horror film (or J-Horror to use the correct lingo) that was a massive hit in its native country, spawning numerous sequels and rip-offs. We could hardly keep up with Ringu-mania at Scarecrow and the endless requests for import DVDs. So it was no surprise that Hollywood snatched up the rights for a remake. For the most part, their version stays fairly close to original concept, a haunted videotape filled with spooky, mostly black and white images, dooms any one who watches it to an early death. Naomi Watts stars as a Seattle Post-Intelligencer (before they went exclusively online) reporter named Rachel who loses her niece to the cursed videotape. She ends up pursuing a series of leads that takes her around the area with ferry rides and visits to mysterious lighthouses. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that Rachel made the mistake of watching the tape so, she too, is destined for a gruesome fate unless she gets to the bottom of things.

Even though the film is only ten years old, The Ring has become very dated over the past decade and serves as a good example of how rapidly our lives have changed. In particular, the use of a faded but beloved form of physical media, the videotape, as a central plot device now seems quaint. At Scarecrow we still have thousands of rare and fascinating VHS tapes in our collection, but we are old school (and as far as we know, none of them are haunted).

Aside from the antiquated technology, there is a lot of local scenery to absorb in The Ring. One would presume that the crew would have filmed a day's worth of B-roll footage, maybe have Watts stroll through the Pike Place Market and then head up to Vancouver for the rest of the movie. Refreshingly, most of the film was shot here in good old Washington State. Aside from a quick glimpse of the monorail and a persistent drizzle, they avoid your stereotypical Seattle locations. Rachel's apartment building is one of those bland modern apartments on Western Avenue. At one point she visits a photo-processing lab whose address is given as 1925 Fifth Avenue, and she actually goes to that precise address. I don't think there ever was a photo lab in this spot but you can see the Avis car rental shop next door. They didn't use the actual Seattle PI offices for interiors but they do use the proper PI font on the wall of whatever location they did use. While investigating the origins of the videotape, Rachel travels around to a few Washington islands and the Olympic Peninsula. She drives across Deception Pass Bridge and I think actually ends up on Fidalgo Island, which would be geographically correct. She takes a ferry to the fictitious Moesko Island to visit a lighthouse. The Port Townsend Ferry Terminal is used for the boarding shot, and you can see the Quinault ferry logo on the boat as she crosses the Sound. I don't recognize the lighthouse but it looks kind of weird so it may be a creation of Hollywood special effects. There are several other locations I can't place but, heck, if you are looking for a haunted videotape movie to watch this Halloween season, give The Ring a try and see if you recognize any of the locations.

-Spenser Hoyt

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