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Naomi Watts is one of my favourite actresses. Although she only really came into the limelight after her performance in David Lynch’s weird and wonderful Mulholland Drive, she has been on the Australian film scene for quite some time, having done several independent films like the lesbian drama High Art and the underrated thriller Persons Unknown. The Ring was her first movie as a leading lady and with the success of films like this, I Heart Huckabees and the phenomenal 21Grams, she has cemented her position in Hollywood as a serious actress. It’s no surprise that she has secured a leading role in Peter ‘ Lord of the Rings’ Jackson’s upcoming King Kong re-working.

Ring: Collector's Edition, The
Film
The Ring itself is actually a remake of a very recent Japanese horror called Ringu (or just plain Ring). Remaking is a practice that I generally despise and Hollywood has always had a penchant for remaking new foreign films as much as older U.S. classics, something that I find even more irritating. And its not that there is anything wrong with the remade films themselves, it is just that they are wholly unnecessary because they are almost always inferior to the originals upon which they are based. Prime examples include the marvellous French comedy, Taxi, and another new Japanese horror, The Grudge. In fact, it will be interesting to see how movie maestro Martin Scorsese fares with his upcoming version of the—in my opinion—unsurpassable Infernal Affairs. You see, none of these are particularly bad films—they are all perfectly watchable, if not thoroughly enjoyable—but they are just not as good as the originals.

The Ring, unfortunately, is no exception. But, since it was based on such a brilliant and original piece of work, the remake is still able to attain standards of greatness that place it a cut above most modern horrors. In fact it is the success of The Ring that has led to both The Grudge and the upcoming Dark Water remakes being made, in much the same way that the original Ring trilogy led to those Japanese horrors being made in the first place. The Ring has a very simple story, and benefits a great deal from that. It is probably so simple that I cannot say anything more without spoiling it. So if, somehow, you have come to this review having not seen or heard anything else about it then I wholeheartedly recommend that you go out and buy it now (preferably the original). It is a five-star movie—end of story.

For those of you still reading, The Ring is basically about a strange videotape that is in circulation. The tape appears to be blank but actually has a couple of minutes of really weird, mainly distorted, monochrome images. After you watch the tape, the phone rings and you will be told that you have seven days to live. After a high school student dies inexplicably—“her heart just stopped”—Rachel Keller, a relative and newspaper journalist, is persuaded to look into the mysterious death. She finds that there are in fact a series of deaths all linked to this strange tape. After involving just about everybody close to her—her son, his father and her ex-boyfriend—she faces a race against time to solve the riddle of the tape before it is too late.

Ring: Collector's Edition, The
Naomi Watts does a fantastic job as the central character, Rachel, playing it with such intensity and desperation that you really feel for her during her plight. Relative newcomer, New Zealander Martin Flender plays her ex, Noah, but is largely unimpressive—merely playing his minor part with little aplomb (the original Japanese male role was much more dominant and multi-layered). And David Dorfman, who plays Rachel’s troubled son, Aiden, whose close cousin was the first victim of the tape, is just plain demonic. I’m sure he was chosen for that level of ‘depth’ but he looks like an evil version of Nik Nak from the Bond film The Man With The Golden Gun, and I just found him immensely disturbing. Finally there’s the great character actor Brian Cox (from the vastly underrated Manhunter and the excellent Bourne films) who plays a horse rancher whose horses all mysteriously committed suicide by running into the ocean.

Director Gore Verbinski (  Pirates of the Caribbean) does a good job of remaking—not reworking—an excellent ‘new’ horror film type that does not rely on relentless gore to scare you but instead uses simple everyday things to get to you. But it is still not as good as the original. The CGI used does not particularly help—CGI is perfect for Spiderman but completely unnecessary in something as simplistic as this movie. That alone makes the original superior, but there are many more reasons, both little and large. So, whilst you may love this film, especially if you saw it first—some surprises just don’t work twice—and whilst it is a very effective horror, I do recommend that you check out the original first and then add this decent remake to your collection.

Video
The Ring is presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio anamorphically enhanced transfer that is largely excellent. The detail is good, when it needs to be, with intentional softness and blurring at times, and a light layer of purposeful grain, necessary to give the film a slightly grittier look. Similarly, colours are muted and the film looks filtered to enhance the picture and give it a greeny edge. Although this restricts the boundaries of the colour scheme, it is wholly intentional and only adds to the feel of the movie. Overall it is a decent, clean transfer, with no noticeable defects or digital side effects.

Audio
Similarly to the transfer, the soundtrack is a deep, penetrating Dolby Digital 5.1 effort that utilises all the best shock and scare tactics at all the appropriate times. The dialogue is kept at the forefront, never less than clear, and the score—predominantly from the rears—is used effectively to crank up the tension. It is a good mix, ideal for this particular kind of movie, heavy on the special effects coverage—some of the noises are just eerie—and with a  little light bass running through to give you the jitters. There is also a Dolby Digital 5.1 German dub and subtitle options in English, German and Turkish.

Ring: Collector's Edition, The
Extras
As per the first release of The Ring, we get the feature ‘Don’t Watch This’. Running at fifteen minutes, this is basically a collection of deleted and alternate scenes spliced with disturbing footage from the Ring video itself. There is more background into the victims, into Rachel, her son and her boyfriend, and uncut death scenes. It’s an interesting and innovative way of presenting deleted footage, and it makes for good viewing. In addition, there is a hidden easter egg, which again was on the original release, whereby you press down on the main menu until none of the options are selected, and then press enter. This takes you to the Ring tape from this movie, which plays for two minutes and cannot be stopped, paused or skipped (unless you unplug the player). In addition, when it has finished playing, a phone rings loudly and ominously—a nice touch.

New to this release we get an eight-minute ‘Making-of’ featurette that basically consists of interviews with the cast and crew, mainly about the core characters. Actors Naomi Watts, Martin Henderson, David Dorfman and the great Brian Cox comment, alongside Director Gore Verbinski and Producer Walter Parkes. It’s an interesting featurette, it is nice to see Naomi chat in her normal Nicole Kidman-esque voice, the child actor David Dorfman is just as strange off-screen, and the whole thing is nicely edited together with clips from the final film and behind the scenes footage.

But most interestingly, there is a fifteen-minute short film called ‘Rings’, which apparently traces that tape’s path of death between The Ring and its upcoming (also remake) sequel, The Ring 2. A foolish cult-like group of friends dare one another to last the longest after watching the fateful tape, documenting their days and strange experiences along the way. It is an oddly captivating Blair Witch-style short film that makes for very interesting and compelling viewing. It is clearly the best extra here and is almost worth the price of the DVD alone.

There are also three trailers, the first, a two-minute theatrical trailer for The Ring itself that gives away far too much, the second a ninety-second teaser trailer for the sequel that, thankfully for me, gives absolutely nothing away, and the final being the tape from the sequel—a shorter and possibly stranger version of the original Ring tape.

Ring: Collector's Edition, The
Overall
The original Ring is a movie worth seeing, but after you have done so, this remake is a must-have addition to your collection. Featuring a stellar performance by the lovely Naomi Watts and with a strong story, the film easily stands on its own two feet. This Collector’s Edition has a brilliant transfer and an excellent soundtrack, and whilst an audio commentary would have been nice, the extras are also brilliant—in particular a gem of a short movie to add to your enjoyment of the whole Ring phenomenon. So, in short, if you don’t own The Ring then buy the original and buy this. If you have a copy already, it is worth considering just how much you want that extra short film—I guess it is pretty tempting…


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