One of my favorite things about Gore Verbinski’s version of The Ring (2002) is the bold statements about children expressed within the film. First Dr. Grasnick (Jane Alexander) articulates an understated fact about parenting and later Samara (Daveigh Chase) challenges our worldview of children. Dr. Grasnick expresses relief on behalf of the town that Samara disappeared never to be found. Discussion about Samara reveals the difficulty of parenting, the fissures that surface in a relationship with the arrival of a child, and the fear of what version of your child will be unleashed unto society.
Dr. Grasnick serves as an authority figure within The Ring. She also serves as a narrative tool, similar to Dr. Loomis (in John Carpenter’s Halloween), who primes the audience to accept that Michael is beyond his help. Dr. Grasnick signifies a professional who permits the viewers to view Samara as a bad seed without placing blame on her parents. Her authority is solidified when Rachel (Naomi Watts) seeks answers from her about the Morgan family. Dr. Grasnick locates the root of evil in Samara by likening her to a plague on the island and by pointing out that children “take work, you know…some people have limits…ever since that girl’s been gone, things have been better.” Through the doctor, the audience now has professional permission to rally against a cute little eight-year-old girl. Upon recognizing that Samara had problems beyond the scope of medical help (or possibly wanting to get Samara off the island), Dr. Grasnick refers Samara and her mother to the Eola Psychiatric facility on the mainland which brings us to the following edited clip:
The Ring reintroduces the monstrous child as a primary character after a long hiatus. Over the previous decade, the closest thing to Samara was Gage in Pet Semetary (1989) and Henry in The Good Son (1993). Truly terrible children were few and far between until Samara hit the screen. Two things that intrigue me about the clip above are the power that it discloses within the child and the difficult realities that couples must face when entering parenthood. We all know horror films love to blame mothers and take away the will of the child. Samara wants to harm people, however, and she inflicts her neediness and selfishness upon others unapologetically.
It was the brilliance of my cohort, Dawn Keetley who made me view this clip differently. The placement of a thoughtful pause changes the reception of Samara’s statements about her mother. The doctor almost states to Samara, “You don’t want to hurt anyone,” to which Samara replies, “But I do, and I’m sorry. It won’t stop.” Conversely it could be read as if Samara is saying, I do want to hurt people and … sorry, it won’t stop. She is not apologetic for wanting to hurt people, she enjoys it. Like the bratty only child that she is, Samara will not stand to vie for anyone’s affection. She exerts her will on her family, the animals, and the island by forcing images into the minds of others. She articulates her jealousy and rage at her father for loving his horses more than her. She says “he wants me to go away,” when in reality Samara’s father chose to put Samara in the barn for the safety of his wife. The horses were indicative of the family’s livelihood and were a passion for the Morgans (especially for Anna). A reality often not discussed in the real world, let alone in horror, Richard Morgan (Cox) had to choose between his daughter and his wife and he chose his wife.
Richard and Anna Morgan’s (Cochran) lives were drastically altered by parenthood. A reality that Anna faces is the illusory utopia that children are supposed to bestow upon a couple. She grapples with the actuality and unpredictability of parenthood as she suffocates Samara and pushes her into the well: “You were all I ever wanted.” Anna says, just before pushing Samara into a well, that “I know things will get better” seemingly without having a child. This clip puts the audience on the side of the mother, who is tasked with putting herself and the community’s well-being before the rights of the child. Aside from the fact that Anna leaps to her death grief-ridden after shoving her daughter in a well, Aiden (David Dorfman) steps in at the end of the film to alleviate Anna’s blame. As the new child authority, (and again highlighting giving children’s will) Aiden forgives Anna Morgan by reprimanding Rachel for saving Samara, “You helped her (Samara)…you weren’t supposed to help her.” Thus, Aiden neatly ends the film by privileging the adoptive parents who killed their daughter over Rachel, the bumbling biological mother who blindly sees children as innocent victims. The families in The Ring must make difficult choices, if you were Anna Morgan what would you do?