The Ring (2002): Collector's Edition Review

This remake trend is really starting to get me down.

Every month, there’s a raft of new announcements, with another music video veteran “reimagining” a classic. Yes, that phrase has become just as tiresome as Hollywood’s love of the mighty dollar. Perhaps one day they’ll spend it on an original voice, but this year’s slate of comic book flicks, sequels and big budget adaptations, suggests otherwise. One might criticise filmmakers for taking few risks these days, but that wouldn’t be entirely true. Japan continues to crank out a steady stream of provocative pictures, and American studios are quick to snap them up. In 2002, DreamWorks unleashed their horror hit The Ring, which made a killing at the box office. Surprisingly, its success was warranted - The Ring is a genuinely impressive horror picture; brimming with potent scares. It’s also a remake that stands on its own merits.

It’s common knowledge know, but Gore Verbinski’s film follows the 1998 picture Ringu, a sophisticated fright flick from auteur Hideo Nakata. It struck a nerve with audiences across the globe, with its chilling premise, and jaw-dropping finale. Nakata has the ability to create scenes of prolonged shock, yet the concept powered the picture; and it gave screenwriter Ehren Krueger everything he needed to form an efficient translation. It’s a great idea, and Verbinski’s version retains a sense of innovation. But the opening sequence would have you believe otherwise, as we’re greeted by that popular horror staple - teenage home...alone. They’re telling each other creepy stories, when one of them drops the bombshell: "Have you heard about this video tape that kills you when you watch it?" And as soon as you watch it, she explains, "your phone rings and someone says, 'You will die in seven days.'" And seven days later, you end up in the morgue. Unfortunately for her friend, she has watched the tape, and ends up deader than Dillinger. Creepy, huh?

The “video nasty” plot has plenty of mileage, and the filmmakers recycle the original anyway they can. Here, we follow reporter Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts), who is thrown onto the trail of said tape when her son’s cousin dies under mysterious circumstances. Naturally, Rachel ends up viewing the cursed video, placing herself in danger, and also the lives of her son Aidan (David Dorfman) and estranged boyfriend Noah (Martin Henderson). Soon, the race is on to find a solution, before the curse kills them too. It’s a simple narrative, that works very well indeed, with Verbinski mixing the mystery and horror elements with skill. He also has a remarkable visual style, that in some cases, improves on Nakata’s modern classic. Placing the action in Seattle, the director paints a fittingly moody picture - a rain-drenched palette of steely blues and dark skylines.

Like the recent (and inferior) remake of The Grudge, The Ring depends mainly on sights, sounds, and imaginative camera work, utilising slow-pans, extreme close-ups and cunning editing to build suspense. Instead of going overboard with gratuitous gore, Verbinski develops an atmosphere, that keeps the viewer riveted. He also had the common sense to cast a strong female in the lead role. The film definitely belongs to Watts, who gives the material some credibility. Her scenes with the surprisingly mature Dorfman work well; a relationship that’s put to the test in the sequel. There’s also the omnipresent Brian Cox in a key role, and Donnie Darko’s little sister Daveigh Chase, as the evil Samara. The film definitely gives off a professional vibe, that most pictures in the genre fail to achieve.

Still, the flaws that appeared back in 2002 are clearer now. The middle-section sags, as Kreuger’s script struggles to maintain momentum, and the finale is pretty convoluted; trying to tie up most of the loose ends. That said, it’s biggest problem is failing to be scarier than Nakata’s original, which effectively made your blood run cold. Yet, The Ring is an excellent film, that has more than its fair share of unsettling images, surprising jolts, and disturbing beats. Word has it that The Ring Two (directed by Nakata) is disappointing by comparison. Well, I guess we’ll find out soon enough...

The Disc

You’ve got to love the mentality behind this release. Appearing a few days before The Ring Two’s cinematic debut, it represents the never-ending studio trend of “cashing-in”. However, DreamWorks haven’t delivered a definitive edition of Verbinski’s remake. It’s still a slim disc, with only one notable inclusion. Therefore, double-dipping isn’t recommended. Collector’s Edition, my arse...

The Look and Sound

The previous release was pretty good technically, but still not perfect. DreamWorks have used the same materials here, which was lazy, but not unexpected. The anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) transfer carefully captures the grim cinematography, with a gritty, dull look overall. It’s textured and reasonably detailed, revealing those stark greys and blues that Verbinski utilises throughout. Indeed, the rain-swept Seattle looks depressing, but the filtered-effect reinforces the moody aesthetic. Its a solid effort, but the transfer could have been sharper, and edge enhancement dogged the image from time to time. Still, the “effect” moments look spectacular, and the few instances of bright colour leap from the screen. Ultimately, this is a good-looking disc.

The sound just about matches the video, and brings The Ring to life in a vivid manner. It’s the same old DD 5.1 mix, but it’s a neat track with plenty of resonance. The sound design is very creative, offering a cornucopia of strange, discomforting noises. The videotape sequences managed to creep me out, keeping the surrounds active wherever possible. That said, most of the mix is fairly low-key, and certainly not the loud, abrasive track I expected. Yet, the audio is clear, and distortion-free, working to make those “jump” moments stand-out. In terms of presentation, The Ring is well above-average.

The Menus

The DVD producers probably used the term “creepy” as a mission statement when creating these menus. Once more, DreamWorks merely recycle the previous release, but the animated options fit the mood and style of the flick well. Unsettling without causing nightmares, these menus are functional, and memorable enough to pass muster.

Bonus Material

We get the few extras found on the first disc, and some new inclusions, which won’t set the world on fire. Most of it is promotional, and won’t take up much of your time.

The best is clearly Rings, a short film that bridges the gap between The Ring and The Ring Two. Written by Krueger, and directed by Jonathan Liebesman (Darkness Falls), it sets-up the sequel reasonably well; introducing a pivotal character. Jake (Ryan Merriman) is lured into a new cult by his friends, who have viewed the cursed videotape. Their plan is to note the weird phenomena they see before their time is up, and pass it on to someone else. Jake relents, and is soon terrified by his nightmarish visions. This is a very well-directed affair, that should interest fans. Therefore, this disc could have some rental value, if you plan to see the sequel on April 1st.

The rest of the disc is slim pickings, indeed.

We get a small featurette of cast/crew interviews, with Verbinski, Naomi Watts and Martin Henderson, which is sheer fluff; the old “Don’t Watch This” deleted scene montage, and some trailers, including one for the sequel. Ultimately, I was left wanting much, much more...

The Bottom Line

Despite my hatred of the current remake trend, The Ring remains a genuinely enjoyable retread, that takes a chilling premise and gives it a big-budget overhaul. It doesn’t improve on the Japanese classic, but certainly holds its own. Therefore, this Collector’s Edition is a severe disappointment, and only warrants a purchase for those who missed the previous copy. With the success of The Ring Two in the States, I’m sure this isn’t the last we’ll see of Samara...

DreamWorks release "The Ring: Collector's Edition" on the 28th March

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Last updated: 21/06/2018 07:10:40

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