Ring, The (US - BD RA)
Jonathan revisits the only good Japanese horror remake in HD...
The Blu-ray release of The Ring is currently a Best Buy exclusive.
It begins as just another urban legend - the whispered tale of a nightmarish videotape that causes anyone who watches it to die seven days later. But when four teenagers all meet with mysterious deaths exactly one week after watching just such a tape, investigate reporter Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts) tracks down the video..and watches it. Now, the legend is coming true, the clock is ticking and Rachel has just seven days to unravel the mystery of The Ring. (From the Paramount synopsis)
The Ring was one of the first in a long line of Japanese horror remakes, and now nine years since its release it remains the only one of the bunch that has been met with critical favor. I had a wonderful experience seeing it with a group of friends and a very reactive audience on its opening night in 2002, and that initial viewing has cemented my fondness toward the film. For the following week I didn't want to be alone near televisions in the dark. I was at that perfect age where I ate up the viral video concept and children talking cryptically, but pop culture and mainstream horror fare have since drove those trappings into the ground. Watching it now, years later, I don't find myself nearly as forgiving of its flaws. Some of the acting is incredibly poor. The script is often weak, with characters substituting logic and explanation with vague statements that are meant to be creepy. But the movie still has a lot going for it with some genuine chills and unforgettable images.
I hadn't seen Mulholland Dr. at the time, so The Ring was my introduction to Naomi Watts. She's one of my favorite actresses working today, and her performance in the The Ring totally helps to sell the ludicrous plot developments. She also lets out a scream at one point that has always stuck with me. She doesn't get much help from the rest of the cast, except from an incredibly eerie supporting role from Brian Cox. Sometimes I forget that Gore Verbinski directed this film as it is so different from the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise that he's known for. I find his work outside of that trilogy far more interesting (I'm the only person I know that really likes The Weather Man). But if you ask me, the real star of The Ring is cinematographer Bojan Bazelli, who does the best work of his career here. He fills the video tape and mysterious locations in the film with a cold, haunting beauty. Even though the plotting and the scares in the film may fade from memory, his visual motifs remain instantly recognizable. I can't even clean under my fingernails without remembering an image from that tape. Ugh.
Paramount has made some pretty significant changes to the look of the film, and in my opinion the new look on the Blu-ray is mostly an improvement. I can't say which is the director's preference, but the aged DVD always felt too bright and a bit low in contrast. Detail is much sharper, bringing out strands of hair, tree branches and wooden textures with a visual clarity that is non-existent in standard definition. A healthy film grain is present and wonderfully consistent throughout the movie. The aspect ratio has been slightly closed from the DVD's 1.78:1 to a 1.85:1 ratio, which is the original theatrical presentation. It looks like the DVD was slightly vertically stretched, and it has been corrected. Color is highly stylized with nearly every scene possessing a cool blue-green hue. The Blu-ray is much warmer in appearance, and when looking at the caps it seems like it is negating some of that cold wintery look that the movie thrives on. It didn't bother me while viewing the film though. Maybe the idea was to bring out more orange tones to compliment the generally teal appearance. Compression artefacts are very minimal with only a few small instances of blocking which happen in the usual places, like harsh shadow gradients and bright lights in dark spaces. Overall it is a very good looking transfer that fits well alongside more recent releases, and if the odd color change isn't a turn off for you, know that everything else on the video front is top notch.
The Ring comes to Blu-ray with a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track that works its wonders in a lot of subtle ways. A lot of the film has low rumbling noises used to ramp up the tension. The environment is often rainy and the score sticks to deep, low tones for the most part. These heavier noises have much more impact here than they did previously, and it really adds to the disturbing proceedings. The surround effects are also subtle, mostly kept to environmental noises like passing vehicles, rain and turbulent water. There's some gentle whistling noises, almost like a faint screech, that ease up in the rear channels during suspenseful moments that were a nice touch. Hans Zimmer's score helps to fill the sound space and create a sustained tension that manages to sound dynamic and distinguished, even during gloomier pieces of music. Dialogue levels and voices are very clear, whether its a child whispering something creepy or Naomi Watts screaming her face off. This is a well-rounded audio track that won't disappoint.
Don't Watch This (HD, 15:26): The back of the box says "HD" next to this feature but it looks like DVD quality to me. This is the same special feature from the DVD, which is a compilation of deleted scenes strung together, separated by bits of footage from the killer video tape.
Rings (HD, 16:42): This is, oddly, a special feature from The Ring Two that documents characters from the second film and their experience with the tape. It functions as a prequel to the second film, and it is not particularly good.
Cast and Filmmaker Interviews (SD, 07:58) is a quick compilation of interview footage with producer Walter Parkes, Naomi Watts, Martin Henderson, Brian Cox, child actor David Dorfman and director Gore Verbinski. They talk about casting somebody who was experienced but not necessarily famous for the role of Rachel, and the actors speak about the background of their characters.
The Origin of Terror (SD, 04:00) is a short documentary feature about urban legends and horror folklore. There is interview footage with actors, filmmakers, a professor of folklore and some guy just labeled "Internet Expert". It's a pretty hokey featurette that barely skims the surface of the psychology behind the film's concept, complete with that generic over-enthused narration.
Cursed Video (HD, 02:06) is the killer tape from the movie, uncut and uninterrupted. It's an HD encode but given the intentionally low-fi look of the tape you aren't bound to notice much extra detail. The creepy images still hold up very well today. It is hidden on the menu as an easter egg. Just highlight the Don't Watch This feature, press left, and then hit enter to access it.
Lastly, there is a Theatrical Trailer (HD, 02:10).
Nearly a decade after its theatrical release, The Ring doesn't hold up as well as I'd hoped, but it is easy to see why the movie made such a lasting impression on American horror films. At the very least, the imagery is just as chilling as it ever was. This new Blu-ray from Paramount features a strong video transfer with some interesting color changes and a lossless audio track that gets the job done and then some. There are a few extras, including some new ones that weren't on the old DVD, but nothing substantial.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray and DVD releases and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Jonathan Hogberg
Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13
Release Date: 20th March 2012
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 5.1 French, Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish, Dolby Digital 5.1 Portuguese, English Descriptive Audio
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Extras: Don't Watch This, Rings, Cast and Filmmaker Interviews, The Origin of Terror, Cursed Video, Theatrical Trailer
Easter Egg: No
Director: Gore Verbinski
Cast: Naomi Watts, Martin Henderson, Brian Cox
Genre: Horror, Mystery and Thriller
Length: 115 minutes
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