Based on a novel by Japanese writer, Koji Suzuki, Ringu (or The Ring), has been well known to horror fans for a few years now. An excitingly tense film that thrives on what you don’t see rather than what you do.
Reiko Asakawa, a newspaper reporter is investigating a rumour of a 'cursed' videotape that once watched, will result in the viewers’ death within one week. She soon discovers that there is more to the story than it just being an urban legend and that her niece and three of her friends died as a result of watching the tape.
When Reiko's investigation leads her to a lodge in the country where all four dead teenagers stayed exactly one week before their deaths, she finds the mysterious tape and watches it. The film becomes a race against time to find out a way of breaking the curse before she and then later, her estranged husband Ryuji and her son Yoichi perish. Ringu is a wonderfully atmospheric film with an almost dreamlike quality that manages to create a feeling of foreboding without showing too much on-screen.
The cast all offer good performances, in particular Nanako Matsushima easily carries the central role of the film as Reiko and Hiroyuki Sanada (Ryuji) also stands out. Nakata's directing is the real star though - the film needed a subtle touch to be successful and that's what it's been given. You're constantly waiting for something to happen that will make you jump, and yet Ringu still manages to surprise and work its way unsettlingly into your subconscious. The last ten minutes in particular will linger with you for a long time after watching.
Is this better than the remake? I have no hesitation in saying yes. While Gore Verbinski's retelling of the story is technically more accomplished in terms of effects and makeup work, it doesn't come close in the spooky stakes! The US version of the film has a (arguably) prettier cast and glossier presentation, but I got the impression that the direction was by the numbers. There are many scenes common to both films, and the Japanese version manages to offer more in every single one. In addition, the remake has a number of pointless plot additions (including a completely unnecessary sequence in the middle that obviously only serves to add some action for those who aren't convinced by the subtlety of the film) and one fairly major plot point from the original has been missed completely.
At last we have a version of Ringu that does get the treatment it deserves. The picture here is anamorphic and richly detailed with a good colour range - there are plenty of dark scenes in the film and the shadow detail is more than adequate. There is little in the way of print damage - something that has been a serious issue on other releases of the film, and the subtitles are not burned in. Unlike the UK release, the transfer is based on a new hi-def master.
I wasn't able to notice any digital artefacts, there was no sign of excessive edge enhancement. In fact, this is a superb transfer and DreamWorks have done a fantastic job in cleaning up the print going on what we've seen on other releases of the film.
We're treated to a great 5.1 channel remix that really does add extra depth to the film. Given that Ringu depends on suspense and atmosphere to draw the viewer in, this new soundtrack manages to create a much more rewarding experience. There are plenty of jump-out-of-your-seat moments and these are complemented well by suitably noisy effects that make good use of all of the available surround channels.
As mentioned before, the subtitles are not burned in to the picture. They're far clearer than previous English release and I didn't manage to spot any glaring errors.
We have a very poor showing as far as extras are concerned. We just have a couple of trailers - the US remake of the film, Catch Me If You Can, 8 Mile and Empire. Very disappointing.
The original, and by far and away the best version of The Ring is finally given the presentation is deserves. For English fans of the film there is no other option that come close to this disc with much-improved picture and sound quality than any other version I have come across. The lack of extras is sorely disappointing and mars what could have been an outstanding release. Still, highly recommended for horror fans - watch this before you watch the remake.
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