The plot device of the American Ring films is a cursed videotape created by Samara Morgan. Anyone who watches the tape is cursed and has a week to copy the tape and show it to someone else, otherwise they will be killed by Samara's ghost. The tape's images are a playback on Samara's life. Samara was pushed down a well by her adoptive mother, Anna Morgan, spending seven days trying to escape but died on the seventh, using her nensha powers to make the tape, out of vengeance and a desire to be found.
The cursed videotape takes the deceptive form of a commonplace video cassette, unmarked and unlabelled. Rachel Keller finds the tape at Shelter Mountain Inn and keeps it with her without giving it a label. The first copy of the tape is marked with a "Copy" sticker and has a box.
There are two versions of the cursed video: the theatrical release and a bonus DVD feature titled "Don't Watch This". The latter of the two is longer, as it contains more images and different sounds. Nonetheless, the tape's content in both is made up of a series of odd and disturbing images and clips which are exaggerated memories or views from Samara's life, or glimpses of the future that also reflect the past. The images happen in an extended order and are split into different segments throughout the video.
The tape begins with static, which fades in and out, as if attempting to gain a signal.The video's first image is of the infamous ring made from the well's lid with light shining around the edge, giving it the appearance of an eclipse. It turns to static before switching to the next scene. This is from Samara's point of view after being dropped down the well by Anna.
The second shot is of blood rushing into the ocean. This a glimpse of the future where Rachel spooks a horse on a ferry, leading to it jumping off the ship and is killed, its blood spewing from beneath the ferry. This could also symbolize the horse suicides caused by Samara, which all jumped off cliffs to their deaths. In the theatrical release, there are sounds played over the clip; in the Don't Watch This version, only the sound of rushing water is heard.
Next are three brief shots of a nail with a drop of blood on it. Included only in Don't Watch This.
An egg like object appears, its innards shifting slightly. Included only in Don't Watch This. This could possibly represent Anna's infertility, thus leading to her adopting Samara.
Then there is a chair, found in Samara's barnyard bedroom. The chair is placed in the center of the frame but then shifts slightly to the right. The chair could represent the ones Samara was confined to at the psychiatric hospital and her room.
The next image is of a close-up of hair being combed, before revealing Anna standing before a mirror brushing her hair. The mirror suddenly shifts to the other side of the wall, Samara reflected in the mirror. The mirror then switches back to the side where Anna is, and she turns and smiles. Samara is heard faintly singing a few lines: "Round we go, the world is spinning. When it stops."
The nail appears again, with the drop of blood dripping down the side. A sound is accompanied with the shot in Don't Watch This; the theatrical version is silent.
Richard Morgan is shown staring down from the second floor of the Morgan home before looking off into the distance. This is from Samara's point of view, who spent some time sitting on the swing outside the house.
Next is a shot of the cliff at Shelter Mountain, with a fly walking in a circle onscreen. The fly actually continues to move after the video is paused, and Rachel successfully removes it from the screen but gets a nosebleed in the process.
Zooming out, there's a mouth with intestines being pulled out of it. If looked at closely, the mouth seems to be a mix of a human and a horse. The intestines being pulled out could represent the pain that Samara felt in her life.
The next image is of thrashing black plastic, that of the garbage bag used to suffocate Samara by Anna.
The well's lid is quickly seen again, this time only half closed.
A tree is then shown on fire. It is the Japanese maple tree seen at Shelter Mountain opposite the well's location. Samara was admiring the tree before being pushed down the well by Anna. The fire element is a reference to the tree's red leaves lighting up when in the presence of the sun. It also shows the location of Samara's body and the well.
Then there is a still image of a small box with the lid off. The shot zooms in slowly, revealing several detached fingers inside, still twitching. Included only in Don't Watch This. There are seven fingers, each one representing the number of days the viewer has to copy the tape to live.
Once more, the nail standing on its head is shown, this time with someone lowering their finger onto the tip. Included only in Don't Watch This. This represents how Samara lost all her nails while attempting to climb out of the well.
White fabric is sliced through with thin knife. Included only in Don't Watch This.
Against a different murky white background, two black drops fall out of a small hole, horizontally. The image blurs into the next. Included only in Don't Watch This.
Dark red spheres gather together in the center of the frame. Included only in Don't Watch This.
An image of a finger being impaled by a nail follows, the nail ripping off. This represents Samara losing her fingernails and tips whilst trying to escape from the well.
The shot of the comb through Anna's hair appears briefly again.
Fingers in a box are twitching violently. Included at this spot only in Don't Watch This.
Blood slowly leaks from the incision made in the fabric. Included only in Don't Watch This.
The next image is of a sea of maggots which turns into a hundreds of floundering humans. In the theatrical release, a piercing sound remains over the shot, but in Don't Watch This only the sound of maggots crawling is heard. This may represent Samara's possible view of the world and humans.
The next image shows a table, chair and a glass of water from the hospital. The chair is moved aside as an abnormally large centipede emerges from under the table and crawls off. This is a reference to Dr. Scott's death, and Samara's link to it. It could also represent how she thought that doctors were even worse than ordinary people, like centipedes.
The following image shows what appears to be a three-legged lamb or goat which limps into a barn. The animal may symbolize Samara's suffering in the world, or her apparent freak-show elements that isolated her from others. The suicidal ferry horse breaks its back legs when it jumps off the ferry, representing its helplessness and perhaps Samara's.
A brief image follows of the horse's eye staring in horror. This represents Samara driving the horses insane with her nensha powers.
A box of removed fingers is shown, the fingers twitching violently. This may again symbolize Samara's loss of her fingertips, or the restlessness of her soul. Included at this spot only in the theatrical version.
The well's lid closes more, showing how the video is nearing its end.
The Japanese maple tree on fire appears again for several more seconds.
It is interrupted by another shot of Samara thrashing in the trash bag.Anna is then seen standing outside of the mirror, removing a pin from her hair. She turns and stares directly into the camera.
The Morgan's home is seen again, this time with Richard no longer standing in the window. This could represent how Richard was mostly absent as a father to Samara.
The egg like object then explodes. Included only in Don't Watch This.
The black dot also explodes, the frame turning dark red and black. Included only in Don't Watch This.
Samara's barnyard chair begins to spin upside down. This could show how she was very bored at the hospital, and how she was going out of her mind.
The next image shows the ladder which is used to access Samara's barnyard bedroom propped up against a wall.
The pale ground moves apart and cracks. Included only in Don't Watch This.
The incision spills a larger amount of blood. Included only in Don't Watch This.
The image after that shows two blurred corpses of horses on the shore of Moesko Island. In the theatrical release, Samara sings another line: "It's just beginning". In Don't Watch This, only the sound of waves are heard.
Anna Morgan is then standing on the same cliff shown earlier. She extends her arms and falls off, committing suicide. This presumably happened not long after she believed she murdered Samara.
The ladder in the barn then begins to fall as well.
The well's lid closes all the way, creating a thin ring.
Then the ladder falls to the floor, a dull thud echoing.
The final image of the tape is a still shot of the well outdoors, unsealed.
The tape ends with static.
The more and more the tape is played, Samara will slowly arise from the well. It is only at 7 days does she fully emerge and walk towards the viewer, and eventually out of the TV.
Effects of the CurseEdit
In The Ring series, the virus is a curse created by Samara to show how terrible her life has been and a form of vengeance on the world. Upon watching the video, viewers are directly contacted via telephone 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. If the viewer does not answer Samara's phone call, she will leave a message on an answer machine as seen when Noah Clay watches the tape.
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 emphasize 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 violently 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 crawls 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, where she emerges from the well and slowly walks 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 with her decayed face. The victim is left with a deformed, waterlogged face. There have been numerous questions to how Samara kills victims who are not near a television as seen with Katie's friends. Also, when Jake's deadline arrived, instead of Samara emerging from the tape world to kill him, Jake at least partially entered the tape world, where Samara killed him.
Also, the bodies of some of the victims are found a short distance away from the exact spot where Samara killed them, as Katie Embry was killed in the doorway to her bedroom, but her body was found in a closet. The same with Noah Clay; he was killed on the floor, but his body was found a few feet away in his chair, surrounded by water.
The same once again with Max: Samara, possessing Aidan, most likely killed Max in Rachel's home, but Rachel found his body in his pickup. However, it is highly probable that Samara possessing Aidan's body moved it there so Rachel would not realize for certain Samara's presence in Aidan's body.
This list of victims includes those killed directly by the tape's curse, and those killed by Samara's powers whether or not it is from viewing the tape. It should be noted that those shown killed directly by Samara (at least in the first movie.) have a quick close-up of their faces, a flash of various images from the tape, then static, possibly to show that the end of the tape is also the end of the victim's life.
- Doctor Scott - The doctor who interviews Samara in the tape Rachel finds at the Morgan house. He was killed shortly afterwards by Samara.
- Morgan Ranch Horses - Driven insane by Samara's powers and killed themselves by jumping off a cliff.
- Katie Embry - Killed by Samara who directly killed her by coming out of her television. Her body was found in a closet by her mother Ruth. Her friend Becca Kohtler was affected and sent to a psychiatric hospital.
- Josh Turnadot - Katie's boyfriend. He was reported to have jumped off a roof, perhaps to escape Samara.
- Scott Conroy - Killed in a car crash.
- Stacey Ngyuen - Killed in a car crash.
- Shelter Mountain Innkeeper - Noah finds him dead in a canoe at Shelter Mountain's lake. This is only included in the deleted scenes of the first film's DVD.
- Ferry Horse - The horse is frightened by Rachel and falls off the ferry and is killed by the ship's propellers.
- Richard Morgan - Samara's adoptive father. He commits suicide via electrocution to escape Samara.
- Noah Clay - Rachel's ex-boyfriend. He was unaware he had to copy the tape, and is killed by Samara directly.
- Numerous viewers in Rings.
- Jake - Killed by Samara directly.
- Doctor Emma Temple - Murdered by Samara during her possession of Aidan. She forced Temple to inject a lethal injection into her neck, making her look like she killed herself.
- Max Rourke - A journalist who is killed by Samara when he tries to photograph her in Aidan's body.
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 a 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 realizes 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 videos was quickly watched as Aidan survives his curse.
The Ring TwoEdit
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.
The Ring Two TapeEdit
The DVD for The Ring comes with a promotional trailer for The Ring Two, edited similar to the cursed tape showing cryptic images of the sequel:
- A drop of water falls from a tap - shown when Aidan is alone in a public toilet.
- Sped up views of scenery.
- The coastline of Moesko Island.
- A jacket with a strait-jacket placed over it, which is seen seconds later thrashing about onscreen.
- A fly comes out of the tap - shown again when Aidan is in the public toilets.
- The doors to the Morgan basement open.
- The stuffed head of a male deer mounted on a wall with an extending shadow.
- A brief image of Aidan's face in the deer's eye.
- A close-up of Samara's hand.
- Water soaks a sofa.
- Scissors cut through paper.
- A playground roundabout.
- A nun's head appears from a window.
- Water emerges from a person's hand but disappears beneath it.
- Water trails up a door whilst a spider climbs up a wall nearby.
- A body bag rolls about. This is possibly a reference to Jake's death and Rachel finding his body in a body bag.
- Samara stands by a wall.
- A book cover opens.
- A statue of St. Mary flips upwards from falling.
- The water fountain at the nunnery where Evelyn gave birth to Samara, Evelyn herself popping up to drown her child.
- A beating heart and images of maggots.
- A blinking eye with the ring inside it - a direct homage to an image from Sadako's tape.
- A needle pierces body parts.
- Water gushes down from the ceiling to flood Max's bathroom.
- A brief shot of Aidan with glazed eyes.
- The final shot is of Samara emerging from the well.