Ring Around the Rosie (2006)


USA. 2006.


Director – Rubi Zack, Screenplay – Alex Barder, Jeff McArthur, Jim Suthers, Michael Tabb & Rubi Zack, Producers – Alex Barder, Lawrence Silverstein & Rubi Zack, Photography – Mark Woods, Music – John Massari, Visual Effects – Mark Intravartolo, Production Design – Max Epstein. Production Company – Run Entertainment/Strategic Film Partners/Poligon Films/Hollywood Media Bridge, LLC/Fear Itself LLC


Gina Philips (Karen Baldwin), Tom Sizemore (Pearce), Jenny Mollen (Wendy Baldwin), Randall Batinkoff (Jeff), Frances Bay (Nanna), Marc Lynn (Deputy Anderson)


Karen Baldwin inherits the farmhouse where she grew up in her grandmother’s will. She makes plans to sell the house and she and her boyfriend Jeff travel there to clean it up. While there, Karen starts to receive mysterious visions. She also meets Pearce, the handyman who lives on the property. Jeff returns to the city, leaving Karen on her own, where she is joined by her sister Wendy. Pearce’s attentions towards the two of them alternate between friendly and sinister. At the same time, the apparitions inside the house increase.

Ring Around the Rosie is a minor genre effort that has attained little distinction. It is the only directorial effort from Rubi Zack who has worked in the industry in various other capacities, ranging from producer and actor to assistant director.

Ring Around the Rosie was clearly conceived when the horror genre had been lit up by the dual successes of The Sixth Sense (1999) and The Others (2001). The two of these created the model for a ghost story that came with a sharp and abrupt last minute twist ending that pulled the audience’s expectations out from under them. The genre was littered for a number of years afterwards with these last minute reversals to the point that such soon became a contrived cliche – see other efforts like Soul Survivors (2001), Identity (2003), Hidden (2005), Reeker (2005), Stay (2005), The Devil’s Chair (2006), The Uninvited (2009), Charlie St. Cloud (2010), The Ward (2010), The Awakening (2011) and Silent House (2011).

As a ghost story, at least in the build-up during its first half, Ring Around the Rosie has the feel of a tv movie. It has a slow pace. A wistful and earnest piano score plays in the background. We get PG-rated sex scenes. After about the 30-minute mark, we realise that nothing whatsoever has happened – the wind blows open the bedroom windows, Gina Philips has dreams of walking down a red hallway, another dream of Tom Sizemore in bed with her. That seems to be all there is to the film – nothing else bar some loud bangs on the soundtrack and what seem to be shakycam flashbacks that fail to give any clear indication what is meant to be happening.

To be fair, around the one-hour mark, Ring Around the Rosie does eventually arrive at a certain interesting strangeness where we are not sure what is happening. The dreams, Tom Sizemore’s alarming swings between over-friendly and threatening and Gina Philips– increasing state of panic leave the film hovering in an undeniable twilight zone where you are, while not exactly burning with tension, at least trying to figure out what is going on. On the disappointing side, what seems to start out as a ghost story becomes more a film about the two sisters being menaced by the psycho handyman – the latter half forgets the ghost story that the film seems to have been building up towards and instead focuses on Tom Sizemore going psycho.

On the other hand, the eventual plot resolution comes as one of the most confusing of the post-Sixth Sense left field endings. [PLOT SPOILERS]. At the end, after the two sisters are pursued through the house and property by the crazed Tom Sizemore, it appears that sister Wendy (Jenny Mollen) died years ago, Gina Philips has incredibly enough forgotten this and resurrected Wendy in her imagination. Either that or Wendy’s ghost has come back to replay events. This in itself is not so bad – merely confusing. However, the biggest confusion the film creates is that it gives no explanation whatsoever of who Tom Sizemore is meant to be. He too appears to be a phantom of the imagination/ghost but his relevance to what is happening is wholly unexplained in the big denouement. This proves majorly confusing given that Sizemore occupies so much of the film (and is top billed). The flashbacks give the suggestion that he may have pursued the two sisters as kids but again there is nothing beyond the vaguest of suggestions that that may be the case.

Tim Sizemore does the Tom Sizemore thing throughout. The initial scenes where he is trying to act friendly seem downright creepy – the role of a friendly, easygoing guy does not sit with the Sizemore persona, he comes across more as a child molester trying to seem like a cool, fun guy to people half his age. Not to mention that some of the scenes that Sizemore gets in the latter half of the film – beating up women, acting psychotically wired and flying off the handle – seem not too different from what the real Sizemore has been busted for. Sizemore certainly seems to get into the role with relish, although the thin line between this and the tabloid Sizemore gives everything an unnerving quality where you cannot help but wonder how much of it is acting. Gina Philips is an actress who has floated around tv, usually playing women ten years younger than her real age. Her previous venture into genre material was as the sister in Jeepers Creepers (2001). She is an actress of blandly homogenous beauty without much depth and makes little distinction here.

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