The Cursed Video Tape is the primary plot device of the films, appearing in The Ring, Rings and The Ring Two. Created by Samara Morgan, the cursed video is stored on an blank video cassette tape. Upon viewing, the viewer is contacted by Samara via a telephone, mobile phone or an answering machine, and have seven days to copy the video and pass it on for someone else to view and continue the curse. If the viewer fails, or does not know what to do, then Samara emerges from a reflective or electrical surface and kills them by scaring them to death, leaving their faces distorted and deformed. The video is made up of a series of seemingly random images that are actually from Samara's point of view in life, or even from the future.
Symptoms and EffectsEdit
In the original source material, the curse is actually a virus called the Ring Cycle or Ring Virus; which will infect whoever watches the video although there are other means of gaining it. The virus is a mutated smallpox virus mixed with Sadako Yamamura's DNA and will ultimately give the victim a heart attack seven days on, activated by Sadako when she attacks a victim.
In The Ring series, the virus is a curse created by Samara to show how terrible her life has been and a form of vengence on the world. Upon watching the video, viewers are directly contacted by Samara who says "Seven days", kicking off the seven day countdown the viewers have to copy the tape and show it to someone else. Numerous symptoms and effects happen to characters in the films, some common and some limited to individuals, but all of them originate from Samara to emphasize her suffering in life by terrifying victims.
It seems people who are cursed terrify or disturb animals like horses or deer. Rachel Keller encounters a horse on a ferry on her way to Moesko Island, the horse panicking, breaking out of its pen and chases Rachel only to fall off the ferry and die. In The Ring Two, a herd of deer are frightened when Samara possesses Aidan Keller's body and attack him and Rachel. Another common symptom of the curse is that viewers have blurred and distorted faces in photographs, and have distorted faces in surveillance footage as seen when Noah is in a shop. Blurred faces may empthasize the fate of a victim's own face if they are killed.
Other common symptoms include nose bleeds and an obsessive habit of drawing sketches of things from the video or seen in a viewer's mind. The nose bleeds could represent injuries done to Samara, and the drawings may stem from the viewers' need to figure out what the images mean. Katie Embry seemed to be heavily tormented by Samara and drew her hair all over a magazine of models and filled a diary with the drawings. Samara can use her nensha powers to burn her handprints onto a victim.
An unique effect is actually in the video if viewed after the first time. On the tape, a fly appears to be circling on the recorded footage but is actually moves if the video is paused and can be removed from the video and exists in the world. The removal of the fly can cause other effects like nose bleeds.
Most effects appear in the form of disturbing, nensha-like powers. Rachel experiences numerous flashbacks or cryptic images like that of the video. She coughs up a piece of medical equipment used to monitor Samara and her telephone leaks water. Wandering into the hall, she finds Samara sitting in Aidan's bedroom in a chair surrounded by a pool of water. Samara touches her, throwing Rachel into an vision of herself in the Eola County Psychiatric Hospital. Aidan's experiences were not shown but he mentioned that Samara showed him images that he later drew but also burnt him at one point. Some characters are mentally influenced by Samara to do things. In Rings, Jake experiences some unique symptoms - a centipede cralws out of his mouth; he experiences a wall of water in which Samara appears out of; and he dreams of encountering Samara.
The symptoms get more worse over time. The most effective symptom is fear, driving victims to go to extremes to make other people watch the video, like ringing tons of people or going to a place with more than one screen, like an electronics store.
Eventually, if a person's deadline arrives, then Samara will appear to kill them. In Jake's dream, Samara shuts off the electricity and locks doors to trap Jake. She can control a television, turning it on even if the power source has been removed. Samara then appears in the tape world, removing the lid of the well and slowly walking towards the screen and eventually crawls or walks out of the television screen, pursues her target and then kills them by scaring them to death. The victim is left with a deformed, waterlogged face.
Content and AnalysisEdit
The video tape is made up of a selection of seemingly random video footage and images, some connected to each other but separated. All of these images are either experienced by Samara during her life, or glimpses of the future which take place in The Ring from Rachel's point of view. There footage is very old and jumpy, and the video flickers a lot, and an eerie screeching noise accompanies most of the footage. The video is roughly a minute and thirty or so seconds long. Below are details on the footage of the cursed tape:
- The infamous ring - actually sunlight streaming around the outline of the well's cover.
- Blood spills across a large source of water - An event in The Ring when a horse is terrified by Rachel, falls off a ferry and is killed.
- Samara's chair in the barn, which stands in the middle of the image before suddenly changes angle.
- Long black hair being combed.
- Anna Morgan combs her hair in front of a small mirror, but the mirror is suddenly on the opposite side of the wall with Samara vanishing into darkness. The mirror changes back to the first position back with Anna who looks to her left with a delusional smile. This was possibly during Anna's unstable period and she would spend hours on end combing her hair, Samara pulling a prank on her by moving the mirror.
- A brief shot of a nail with a drop of blood running down its side.
- Richard Morgan stares down from a first-floor window of the Morgan house, likely at Samara.
- The cliff face at Shelter Mountain Inn. A fly crawls in a circle onscreen and can be removed upon a second viewing of the tape.
- A stringy object is pulled out of an unknown person's mouth - it is possible Samara had some sort of treatment in the Eola County Psychiatric Hospital involving having something put down her throat. Rachel pulls an old electrode out of her throat when she is cursed.
- An up-close shot of Samara's head trapped in the garbage bag.
- A brief shot of the well lid covering the well's entrance.
- The tree at Shelter Mountain on fire - while it actually is on fire in the video, the tree's red leaves caught in sunlight make the tree look like it is aflame.
- A finger is jabbed through the nail, causing the nail and fingertip to come off - this represents Samara's nails and fingertips breaking off when she tries to escape the well before dying.
- Maggots which transform into floundering humans - maggots are the larva form of flies, and are often related to death.
- A room at the psychiatric hospital, showing a table, chair and a glass of water. The chair is pushed slightly out of place as a giant centipede crawls out from under the table - a centipede surprises Rachel when she looks through Samara's medical files.
- An animal resembling a goat or a lamb stands in a barn door, and appears to only have three legs, and limps out of sight behind the door - this may refer to the animals disturbed by Samara's powers, as the horse that falls off the ferry breaks its legs as it goes over, the goat only having three and limps. The three-legged goat could also be considered an oddity, similar to Samara.
- A close up of a horse's eye with the walls of its pen reflected in its eye - this is from The Ring when the ferry horse panics.
- Another shot of the well lid closing.
- A box of removed fingers which wriggle and squirm - Likely another nod to Samara damaging her hands whilst trying to escape the well.
- The tree almost engulfed in fire.
- More shots of the garbage bag.
- A close-up of Anna fixing her hair in front of the mirror. She turns as if looking at the viewer but is likely looking at Samara or Richard.
- The previous house shot where Richards stood, now absent - this may reflect on his distance with Samara.
- The barn chair spins upside-down in midair.
- The ladder used to access Samara's bedroom leans against a wall.
- A darkened view of the shore of Moesko Island, several dead horses lie on the beach and in the sea.
- Anna stands on the cliff top and falls forward, committing suicide.
- The ladder topples forwards onto the floor.
- The well's lid fully covering the well, creating the ring symbol.
- The ladder collapses completely.
- The final shot is of the well - this clip extends onwards on the final day with Samara climbing out of it to kill the viewer.
There is an extra hidden image on the video which can revealed if the film is stretched. Rachel and Noah discover footage of Moesko Island's lighthouse. This was likely added in by Samara as a easter egg of sorts to direct viewers to her old home.
When copied, the numbers representing the tape's control track are faulty, which according to Noah means there should be no images on the copied tape.
The video tape's curse was created by Samara likely after her death in the well. Having a miserable and lonely life, Samara was nearly drowned at birth by her mother Evelyn, nearly drove her adoptive parents mad, and was eventually pushed down a well to her death seven days later. Eventually, a set of rental cabins were built at Shelter Mountain, Cabin 12 built over the well with the television and a VCR right above the well. Since video tapes did not become common until the 1980s, its possible Samara's spirit lingered in the well long enough to create curse on the video tape by channeling images into the tape. Samara appears to have moved her entire essence into the tape.
After perhaps thirty years of silence, Samara and the curse are found by a quartet of teenagers who stay in Cabin 12 - Katie Embry, Josh Turnadot, Stacey Nyugen and Scott Conroy. Whilst attempting to record a football game, they used the video tape and watched it, becoming the first victims of the curse. They teenagers fled from the cabin, leaving the tape there. Seven days on, the four die, Katie killed by Samara, Josh falls or jumps off a building and the other two die in a car crash. Katie's friend Becca, witnesses her death and encounters Samara, ending up in a mental institute.
Three days on, at Katie's funeral, Rachel learns of the tape and later visits Cabin 12, finding and watching the tape and her seven day curse begins. She quickly takes and shows the video to Noah, and she copies the tape to see if it will work. As her week passes by, Rachel investigates the tape's origins, eventually learning of the Morgans and visiting Richard at the ranch and he later commits suicide. Rachel discovers Aidan has watched the copy of the tape, which ultimately saves her.
Rachel and Noah eventually locate the well and put Samara's body to rest. However, while Rachel saved herself, Noah and Aidan's curses have not ended and Samara attacks Noah and kills him. In rage, Rachel destroys the original tape and burns it in a fireplace. She realises that she had to copy the tape and show it to someone else in order to escape the curse and helps Aidan copy the tape. The two hide the copies in a video rental store with the hope that the curse and Samara will leave them alone. Presumably the videoes was quickly watched as Aidan survives his curse.
Over an untold amount of time, the tape has been copied and viewed many times by various people, mostly teenagers. A teenage cult has formed around the video, referred to as "Rings", involving a group of several teenagers forming a ring of people. One person watches the tape and records everything they see until they can take no more and may pass the tape onto the next person in the ring. Presumably new people come and go to continue the ring. It is known that the cult has spread all across the USA, and some adults have become aware of it like the guard of a television store. A website was made for the cult.
Rings focuses on the ring in Astoria, Oregon, where coincidentally Rachel and Aidan had moved too. Members of the Astoria ring included Eddie, Vanessa, Timmy and newcomer Jake. Eddie lasted six days before showing Vanessa the tape, who lasted five days before Jake watched the video. Jake records everything he sees such as rings everywhere and a red ladder in the middle of his high school hallway. On the fourth day, Jake watches a previously recorded tape of a victim of the tape showing Samara attacking the man. Jake begins to experience disturbing sides of the curse, such as spitting up a centipede and is stalked by Samara. Vanessa schemes with innocent Timmy, so they can see the outcome of a seventh day at last, although Eddie seems unaware of this and just advises Jake to continue filming and find someone to watch the tape.
Jake eventually contacts his friend Emily and convinces her to come to his house.
The Ring TwoEdit
Continuing on from Rings, Jake leaves Emily alone to watch the tape in his lounge whilst he telephones Eddie in the kitchen. Eddie congratulates him, but Jake spots water flooding into the room. Running to the lounge, he finds Emily did not watch the tape and closed her eyes. Samara emerges from the television and kills Jake, Emily fleeing to the basement before the police find her and take her in for questioning. It is at this point that Rachel learns of Jake's death and sneaks into an ambulance to find his deformed body. Samara appears and proclaims she has "found" Rachel, hinting that she was searching for her via the spreading of the tape across the country and beyond.
Rachel visits Emily at the police station and learns the location of the tape. Sneaking into Jake's house, Rachel is reunited with the video she thought she had rid her family of. Taking it outside, Rachel destroys the film and the tape in a fire, asking Samara not to interfere in her life. The tape is destroyed and Samara's spirit flies to the Keller house where she later possesses Aidan's body. It seems this was the final copy of the tape despite two tapes existing at the end of the first film, and the existence of the the large cult across the country. It is more than likely that there are many more copies of the tape due to the rules of copying it and showing to other people.
Continuing from The Ring Two, Gabriel sends Julia and Holt to the town Sacrament Valley, where Samara was given a proper burial after the residents of Moesko Island refused to accept the remains. He realizes the mark on Julia’s hand is Braille, translates it, and goes to warn them. Julia and Holt find an unmarked tomb, but when they break in, they find it empty. They are caught and taken to a blind man named Burke, who claims Samara’s body was entombed by the local priest but a flood came, leading the priest to bury her in a potter's field outside town.
Heading for the field, Julia and Holt are stopped due to a car crash and learn Gabriel was involved. He tries to warn Julia of his discovery but is fatally electrocuted by a falling utility pole. After experiencing a vision of Samara’s birth mother Evelyn, Julia and Holt return to town. Julia goes to the church and discovers a hidden chamber beneath the bell tower, finding evidence that Evelyn was imprisoned there whilst pregnant, held in captivity by the priest after being raped before she escaped eight months into the pregnancy.
Julia visits Burke and explains her findings. He attacks her, revealing he was not only the priest but Samara’s biological father, and had blinded himself to escape the reach of his daughter’s powers. Julia pushes him down the stairs, temporarily incapacitating him. Holt rushes to Burke's house, where he is knocked unconscious. Julia is drawn to a room in the house where she discovers Samara’s skeleton behind a wall. Burke appears and tries to choke her to death to prevent her from cremating her remains, which he claims would unleash an unspeakable evil upon the world. He also reveals that Julia was the twelfth person to have attempted to cremate her remains; the previous ones have been killed by Burke. Suddenly, a swarm of cicadas fly in, summoning Samara through Julia’s phone. Samara removes Burke’s blindness and promptly kills him. Holt recovers and rushes to Julia's aid. That night, he and Julia cremate Samara’s corpse, in an attempt to appease her spirit once and for all, and return home.
- The cursed video was used in the promotion of the film. It was used as a mysterious commercial without the film's title, and free copies of the tape were placed in cinemas for people to take home and watch.
- A teaser trailer for The Ring Two can be found on the DVD of The Ring, edited in the style of the cursed tape.