“Before You Die, You See”

by Emily Kaye Lazzaro

I grew up in a Connecticut suburb and had a very small group of sheltered friends. We liked being sheltered, because it allowed us to do our homework without the distraction of boyfriends and popularity. But the lack of boyfriends, popularity, and having any kind of interesting experiences started to weigh on us by the time we were seniors in high school. That year we started seeing bands, being slightly less responsible, and occasionally (twice) having parties where more than six people showed up. It was around that time, the year was 2002, that my friends and I went to a Rusted Root concert at a nearby college. It was so awesome. They played “Send Me On My Way,” duh. There was even a 25 minute drum solo that I dubbed, at the time “transcendent.”

So after the show we were all hopped up on new experiences, and we walk back to my friend Liz’s Jeep Wrangler in the parking lot. So we get to Liz’s Jeep and under the windshield wiper is an unmarked VHS tape. What could it be?! Porn. It was probably porn. Intrigued, my friends and I took the tape back to my mom’s house and popped it in the VCR because what else were we going to do? AND THIS IS WHAT WE SAW.

Needless to say we all FREAKED OUT. Let me remind you that it was 2002 so the internet existed but nobody had ever heard of “viral marketing” and I don’t even think YouTube was a thing yet. So, we screamed and covered our heads with pillows and screamed more. Did you watch it?! The part with the dead cow on the beach?! AHHH! Why do people like having these feelings! It’s a living nightmare. I just watched it again and I’m literally shaking. Why do I keep watching it? So many people enjoy things like this and it just makes me want to die to stop the scary. Do you crazy people love your own nightmares? Do you?!

Now, of course, we did not understand why somebody would put this tape on our car. We really thought it was going to be a porn. That would have been scary in its own right, but nothing like this. We came to learn that the video is from the movie The Ring. IT’S THE TAPE THEY WATCH AND THEN THEY DIE. WERE WE GOING TO DIE?! There was no way to know. We assumed that we would all be dying and nobody slept for the rest of their lives.

But lo and behold, many years later, we are all still alive and viral marketing is a thing that marketing managers and PR representatives talk about around conference tables. In 2002 it was very effective, in an age before the internet made cynics of us all. If you think about it, it was sort of a genius move. Put a bunch of unmarked tapes on the windshields of kids at a Rusted Root concert and you’re hitting your target audience smack dab in the middle of their bored, adolescent faces. And my friends and I all went to see The Ring when it came out, so I guess it worked!

But upon further reflection, the really great thing about this was that it happened at all. Before my friends and I watched the video from The Ring in my mom’s living room the most exciting thing that happened to me was I got to give a speech at eighth grade commencement. So thank you, DreamWorks marketing team circa early-2000’s. Thank you.

Emily Kaye Lazzaro is a playwright and actor from Boston. She thinks that antiquated technology is very spooky.