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The Ring (2002)

Paramount Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 3/20/2012

All Ratings out of

Movie:

Video:
1/2
Audio:

Extras:


Review by Mike Long, Posted on 3/31/2012

I've written before about how cultural baggage influences the way that we feel about movies -- in other words, every movie that you've ever seen will have a deciding factor on how you judge the next movie that you watch. (There are plenty of mediocre movies out there which I probably would have liked better had I never seen another movie before.) No where is this more substantial than with remakes. Typically, unless the two films are completely different, the one which you see first is the one which you prefer. This appears to be the case with The Ring. This 2002 remake of the 1998 Japanese film Ringu became a big hit in the U.S. and garnered good reviews. Still, I saw the Japanese version first (followed by the Korean version), so it's the one which I prefer.

Rachel (Naomi Watts) is a newspaper reporter who lives in Seattle with her young son, Aidan (David Dorfman). Katie (Amber Tamblyn), Rachel's teenaged niece, dies suddenly and at the wake, Rachel overhears some of Katie's friends talking about Katie's boyfriend and a cursed videotape -- one that, once you watch it, will kill you in seven days. Rachel begins to do some digging and learns that two other teens died at the exact same time as Katie. Re-tracing Katie's tracks, Rachel learns that the girl and her friends had visited a mountain resort. Rachel goes there, finds the tape and watches it. Fully believing in the curse, Rachel enlists the aid of Aidan's estranged father, Noah (Martin Henderson), for help. Together, they begin to analyze the images on the tape (which is simply a series of seemingly random and disturbing things) and piece together a decades old mystery involving a little girl and a distant island. But, will they find the answer in time to save their lives?

(Author's Note: I typically try to make my reviews as spoiler-free as possible, but The Ring was a huge hit which came out ten years ago, so I will write more freely than usual about the story specifics.)

Here's what typically happens with the remakes of foreign films -- Hollywood will take a dense and deep movie, with lots of character development and subplots, and streamline it so that it will appeal to the lowest common denominator. The Ring does the exact opposite of this, taking the basic premise of Ringu and adding all sorts of things to it. This is not to imply that Ringu is some sort of plotless, simple movie, as it's not. It actually contains a very detailed plot which is slowly unraveled as the mystery is solved. But, for some reason, screenwriter Ehren Kruger felt that several more layers needed to be added to the story. For example, why is Aidan psychic? A big deal is made about this, but nothing comes of it. Why does the cabin look like it's been there for a hundred years? What's the deal with the horses who commit suicide? Is that a thing? I get that Samara could project bad thoughts to people, but did she do that to the horses too? The movie's biggest flaw was making Samara be truly evil. One of the best parts of Ringu is that Sadako was merely an innocent bystander who got caught up in her mother's issues and was murdered. Her vengeful spirit (the Japanese love vengeful spirits) is seeking justice -- it has nothing to do with her being evil.

Still, Kruger and Director Gore Verbinski, who made this just prior to the first Pirates of the Caribbean film, are professionals and they haven't created a totally bad movie. The Ring is drenched in atmosphere and much like The Killing emphasizes the gloomy, rainy Seattle weather to create a sense of foreboding. The shock scares, typically quickly cutting to the face of a victim, work well and the pacing is deceptive -- this is no action movie, but about halfway through, you realize that things have been falling into place (no matter how clunky they are). The acting is strong, and Watts does a fine job carrying the movie.

We live in an age where technology is constantly evolving but it still feels weird to see just how dated The Ring is. A cursed videotape? What's videotape? That aside, for an American remake, this movie isn't a total disaster. Still, I prefer Ringu, if nothing else for the last five minutes. The revelation of the ghost is much creepier in the original and Ringu has a specifically depressing ending (which was taken from the source novel) which is missing from the American version. The Ring is serviceable, but if you haven't seen Ringu, check it out immediately.

The Ring offers an unusually preachy message about Americans watching too much TV on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 37 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing no defects from the source material. There is some grain here, but my guess is that it was intentional on Verbinski's part, to match the gloomy look of the film, and not a by-product of a faulty transfer. The movie is nearly monochromatic at times, so any bright colors look good. Despite the movie's dark look, it's never overly dark and the image never goes soft. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.5 Mbps. The track delivers clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo and surround effects are quite good here. First of all, the constant rain fills the front and rear channels, soaking us in the deluge. The stereo effects are nicely detailed, showing good separation. The surround effects clearly reflect the locations of sounds on-screen. The subwoofer effects help to drive home certain scenes, such as the one on the ferry.

The Ring Blu-ray Disc contains a few extras. "Don't Watch This" (15 minutes) is an odd reel of deleted scenes and footage which looks as if it could have been incorporated in the "video". Most of what we get here is incidental stuff like more of Katie's photos from her trip or Noah searching for more clues. There use new footage of Noah and Rachel at the cabin which reveals a death not seen in the finished film. "Rings" (17 minutes) is a short film which shows a group of teens who watch the "video" as a thrill and then find someone else to watch it in order to save them. They try and see how long they can go before they have someone be their "tail". (This features a young Emily VanCamp.) "Cast and Filmmaker Interviews" (8 minutes) offers chats with Watts, Verbinski, Producer Walter Parkes, Henderson, and Brian Cox. "The Origin of Terror" (4 minutes) does not focus on the Japanese version of the movie, but rather urban legends. The final extra is the THEATRICAL TRAILER for the film.

Review Copyright 2012 by Mike Long