Rings came into cinemas this month to rejuvenate the Ring horror franchise, bringing back everyone’s favourite TV-haunting drowned ghost to exact her revenge on more unsuspecting victims. This third instalment in the series has us feeling all nostalgic about the earlier films – starting with The Ring, when Western audiences were first introduced to Samara and her cursed videotape, and going on with The Ring Two.
Like many other types of film, there is a lot going on behind the scenes of a horror movie production. There is a lot of makeup and prop making to be done, alongside the normal script and actor considerations. There are often a lot more effects to be considered, and while many shots may look complete on screen, they are often achieved with a mixture of different techniques and tricks to cut down on budget.
Naturally, there are a lot of stories to share from the set. These films were also at the forefront of the age of viral marketing, so there was naturally a lot of thought given during the production as to how to get news out there – and a lot of it was done in very interesting ways. Here we have gathered a collection of the most interesting facts and secrets from the making and release of the films of the Ring series. As well as some information about the first two instalments that you’ve never heard before, there’s plenty of juicy secrets about the new movie to share as well! Read on, and prepare to be scared.
15. Cursed Tapes Were Made As Freebies
As one of the main ideas behind the film series is the cursed videotape, you might think it would be a central part of the marketing – and you would be right. You might also think that, just to be safe, it’s probably best that there aren’t any copies of the killer video lying around, say, on unmarked videotapes. Except that there are. One of the early marketing efforts centred around the first week of release in the US and Canada. A very small number of lucky cinemas had actual copies of the cursed videotape that the studio had made for promotional purposes. These were left on seats for viewers to take home as freebies. Imagine the horror slowly dawning on you as you realize that the free video you picked up when you walked in is none other than the cursed video you have just explicitly been told will kill you in the next 7 days.
14. The Tape Was Played Live On TV
Hearing about it now doesn’t seem as impressive as it did at the time. We were not yet used to seeing viral marketing when The Ring was released, but the marketing team behind the film came up with a real doozy. The killer video on Samara’s tape is supposed to curse anyone who looks at it, meaning that they will soon be killed by Samara if they don’t pass it on to someone else. That’s why it’s so creepy that the video itself was used as part of the marketing campaign – with no explanation attached to it. They used it for late-night commercial spots in 2002. Imagine staying up late and casually watching TV, only to see that creepy video coming up on your screen. Not only that, but this is before YouTube, so it wasn’t as if you could just go and look it up online or share the clip with your friends. Spooky!
13. The Tree Was A Fake
There’s a stunning red tree which is part of the killer video, and which turns out to exist in real life when Naomi Watts’ character tracks it down. It turns out to be central to the plot, as finding images from the tape allows her to find Samara’s origins and final resting place. Gore Verbinski, the director, didn’t want to go out and find the perfect tree, especially since they might need it multiple times and would need to travel back to it for reshoots. Instead, he just had a tree built from steel tubing and plaster so that the crew could carry it around from set to set. They ended up giving it the nickname of “Lucille” thanks to the flaming red leaves. It also suffered a lot of trouble during filming. Production designer Tom Duffield admitted that it was haunted by strong and sudden gusts of wind that knocked it over in both Washington and LA, even when the weather had previously been calm.
12. There Are Subliminal Images In The Film
If you remember anything from Fight Club, you’ll know that it is possible for filmmakers to insert single frames of scenes which flash so briefly before our eyes that we barely see them. They can be used to send subliminal messages, and in this case, to make the film feel a lot scarier. Between some of the scenes in the early part of the film, you can slow the footage down in order to see frames here and there of Samara’s view inside the well. It doesn’t look like much, but it builds up a claustrophobic feeling throughout the film. You can also see images from the cursed tape played one after another very quickly after Noah is killed. You will also find circles hidden in many of the scenes – much of the décor was put together to include these themes on set. Look at wallpaper, bedspreads, and so on to find them all.
11. The Film Was Given A Sterile Look
Gore Verbinski wanted to make sure that the film looked as creepy as possible. He also wanted to make sure that it didn’t look anything like the teen horror movies and slasher flicks that were being released around the same time (think Jason X and Valentine). In order to achieve this, he went for a more gothic look, using the natural gloom of Seattle to impart cloudy skies and bad weather. 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.” You can see this in the way each of the frames is structured and clean, without distraction. This was a stark contrast to horror movies around the time, which tended to be overdone and cluttered. If you get something of a sterile or clinical impression when watching, this is why – and it puts you in mind of a morgue or hospital to add to the chill factor.
10. There Are No Shadows In Most Of The Scenes
Next time that you are watching The Ring, go ahead and look at the walls or floors behind and beneath the actors. What do you notice? Something that should be very clear is the fact that there are hardly ever any shadows cast by the people in the film. This was a trick achieved by careful lighting. The cinematographer, Bojan Bazelli, explained that this was done very deliberately: “In lighting the sets and the actors, we tried to eliminate all the shadows cast by the actors, which is meant to subconsciously alter the viewer’s sense of perception and add a heightened sense of ambiguity.” This makes for a creepy and surreal feeling whenever we look at the actors. It can even make you begin to wonder if they are real. After all, a ghost wouldn’t cast a shadow, would it? This is some very clever work on the filmmakers’ parts, and definitely helped to make the film as popular as it was.
9. The Video Meaning Was Left Open
When faced with the difficult task of creating a clip that would be scary enough to serve as the killer video, Gore Verbinski took a decision to make it as open to interpretation as possible. A lot of people have tried to break down the meaning behind the killer video and construct a narrative from it, but there simply isn’t one to find. He used some classic elements from supernatural films such as horses and ladders simply because they appeal most to our sense of creepiness. It does provide a linear narrative, but it is intended to be unexplainable. This was confirmed by the writer, Ehren Krueger, who helped to put it together whilst filming was underway. It isn’t based too much on the Japanese version of the video, either. It’s interesting to see how a random selection of creepy images put together into one clip can make us start to imagine meanings even when there are none.
8. Verbinski Saw Ringu In The Creepiest Way Possible
How do you manage to convince yourself that a scary movie from another culture is creepy enough to deserve a remake? Easy – you treat yourself to what is perhaps the creepiest viewing of that movie ever experienced by anyone. Given the subject matter of the film, it probably wouldn’t be the best idea to watch it on an old VHS tape that has been passed around so many times and re-taped until the quality is just awful. But that’s exactly what Gore Verbinski did when he first watched Ringu. He said, “actually that added to the mystique, especially when I realized that this was a movie about a videotape. There is something about that image of a seemingly innocuous videotape just sitting there unlabeled. If you are aware of the myth, the object itself becomes both tempting and haunting.” Whatever he says, all we know is that you couldn’t pay us to watch an unlabelled VHS these days, even if we happened to have a video player sitting around.
7. It Started Without A Script
Most movies won’t go into production for years despite their clear potential, because of the fact that the script keeps getting reworked and rewritten until it is thought to be perfect. But where The Ring is concerned, this convention was totally ignored. The script had not yet been put into a solid state when production started. Verbinski said, “The film went into production without a locked script. It just makes everything insane.” Bear in mind that the script normally lays out everything, not just the dialogue: it also describes what characters are wearing, where they are, what props are around them, and so on. It gives them clear personalities and motivations that the actors use in order to fuel their portrayals. Yet, none of this was confirmed when the studio gave the green light and allowed filming to start. It’s lucky that Verbinski was able to keep such tight creative control on all of the elements that added up to the final piece.
6. Chris Cooper’s Role Was Cut
You might be thinking to yourself that you don’t recall Chris Cooper being on the cast list. That’s because he wasn’t – not in the finished version. Cooper has starred in plenty of films and television shows, from The Muppets to Great Expectations. He might have ended up in The Ring too, if his role hadn’t been cut from the film before it was released. As he describes it: “I opened the movie and closed the movie. It was two scenes, and I was a serial rapist or a murderer who deserved everything that was coming to him. Because [Naomi Watts’ character] was a journalist, I was trying to convince her that I had found God and I had straightened my ways and rehabilitated myself. I was looking for an out, and she didn’t buy it, correctly so. Then in the tail end, she pays me a visit and gives me the tape.” It turns out that Verbinski didn’t want an ending that closed the story off, so the finished version was more open-ended.
5. The Cast Weren’t Convinced It Was Creepy
Watching the first film now, it’s hard to think of it as being anything other than a truly scary movie. There are so many creepy moments that it’s unsettling even to think about in some ways. But during filming, the cast weren’t actually convinced that it was going to be scary at all. Naomi Watts and Martin Henderson thought that it could end up going in the cheesy direction instead, and had no idea how it was going to look until it was finished. Henderson admitted, “A lot of the ‘scare factor’ comes with the editing, the effects, and the music. There were moments when Naomi and I would look at each other and say, ‘This is embarrassing, people are going to laugh.’ You just hope that somebody makes it scary or you’re going to look like an idiot!” It’s interesting to know that actors really have no idea whether the film is going to be good or not while they are making it. It means a big risk for their careers.
4. It Was Filmed To Represent Meme Culture
Since you’re reading this on the internet, we’ll go ahead and assume that you’ve seen a meme or two in your time. Memes can be passed around as units of imitation that contain ideas and messages wrapped up in culture (to put it in fancy terms). The idea that was posited during the filming of The Ring is that these repetitive memes are taking up space in our heads, reducing our brain power for other things, and slowly killing us. That’s a little dramatic, perhaps, but think about the whole format of the concept. If you don’t share a video with a friend within 7 days, you will die – sound familiar? There have been a whole raft of email chains, copy and pasted comments, and meme images with this exact theme. It’s not a coincidence that this was chosen as the inspiration for Ringu and, after it, The Ring.
3. It Took 6.5 Hours To Get Samara Into Makeup
For the new movie, Rings, there was a lot of attention paid to the getting the look right. Arjen Tuiten is the special make-up effects designer for the film, and he has stated that it took around 6 and a half hours to complete Samara’s make-up for each day of filming. That’s a long start to a long day. The costume also took a while to get on – thanks to the water rig fitted underneath the dress. This would allow Samara to continuously drip water as she moved around the set. Tuiten took over working on the film after his mentor, Rick Baker, retired from the industry. Rick had worked on the first two instalments of the series, but left his whole studio to Tuiten so that his protégé could carry on his work. While the studio was previously named Cinovation, Tuiten renamed it R-E-N, which you will see in the credits of Rings.
2. It Was Intended As A Halloween Serial
They say the best-laid plans go to waste, and that has certainly been the case with this new instalment in the franchise. When the studio decided to go ahead with filming, they wanted to start a new Halloween tradition. It was slated for release on October 28, 2016. If it did well at the box office, the idea was, it would become a regular fixture, with an annual Halloween release date for further sequels. However, nothing went quite to plan. They ended up pushing the release date back, which then had it coming out bizarrely in the middle of the festive season. Instead of opting for this ill-advised plan, they instead went for a release of February 3rd, which they finally managed to achieve.
1. The Trailer Spoiled A Huge Plot Point That Was Later Removed
If you watched the trailer for Rings, you might just have had your experience ruined. One decision behind the scenes changed the layout of the final film, when it was already too late to recall the trailers, and you will have seen a spoiler that was not intended by the filmmakers. In the film, Julia has a braille mark on her hand. During the trailer, a character called Burke tells her that, “the mark on your hand means rebirth”. This line was then edited out of the film as it was thought to be better if this reveal was kept right until the end. So, in essence, the trailer actually ruins the big twist at the end of the film. It’s a shame this was done, but because trailers are cut before films are finalized, it’s actually fairly common for content to make the trailer that is then removed from the final cut.