The Ring is the critically acclaimed, smash hit thriller David Ansen of Newsweek says "raises some serious goosebumps!" This cinematic thrill ride will keep you on the edge of your seat from the stunning opening to the astonishing conclusion!
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, investigative 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.
Ten years after its theatrical release 'The Ring' still manages to give everyone the heebie-jeebies. When preparing to revisit the chiller remake of a Japanese horror film — a full-fledged subgenre affectionately known as "J-horror" — I expected others in the household to join me. But that wasn't the case. Seeing it only once has apparently left enough of a mark to be a permanent warning of its ability to scare the bejesus out of them. So, I ended up having the unfortunate task watching it all by lonesome. With all the lights off. By myself. I wouldn't go so far as to say that I nearly shat my pants or that it has the same affect on me as the first time I saw it — in the comfort of a crowded theater with complete strangers, I might add, but the movie continues to give me the creeps.
Part of its effectiveness comes from the way Gore Verbinski directs the film. Although best known for the swashbuckling actioners in 'The Pirates of the Caribbean' franchise, he arguably does some of best work in this supernatural thriller. With outstanding editing by long-time collaborator Craig Wood, he reveals he has a natural talent for building suspense and making audiences scared of being home alone. (Or left to watch scary movies alone, as the case may be.) Half of the work in making a very good horror film comes from how the camera toys with our expectations and raises our awareness to our surroundings. 'The Ring' does precisely that with flying colors.
Look no further than the first few minutes to get an idea of what I mean. Just after establishing the film's main plot device, which is ingeniously told as an urban legend, Verbinski and cinematographer Bojan Bazelli get pretty creative with the framing and camera angles. The best shots are when either of the teenage girls (Amber Tamblyn and Rachael Bella) walk towards the camera for a close-up. Accompanied by intentionally noticeable intervals of silence, our field of view is manipulated so as to make us aware of the empty space around the characters, heightening viewer anticipation and generating tension. Granted, this is nothing new and far from groundbreaking, but the point is that the filmmakers make excellent use of these traditional camera techniques and produce a spine-chilling atmosphere throughout the movie.
Added to that, we have a wonderful script by Ehren Kruger ('Impostor,' 'The Skeleton Key') which functions more like a psychological mystery thriller than it does as your typical supernatural spook-fest. Based on the novel by Koji Suzuki, whose other stories have inspired films like 'Dark Water' and the 'Masters of Horror' episode, "Dream Cruise," the plot follows Naomi Watts' intrepid and mettlesome Seattle journalist, Rachel, as she uncovers the story behind a mysterious VHS tape which kills its viewers seven days after being watched. Although nothing particularly remarkable or standout, Watts does exceptionally well as a smart woman obsessed with unearthing the truth. After her breakout performance in David Lynch's 'Mulholland Drive,' Verbinski's 'The Ring' pretty much solidified her as a star capable of carrying her own movie.
Watts is assisted by Martin Henderson as an ex-boyfriend whose media-savvy skills come in handy, though in some rather artificial ways. Something about him playing second-fiddle to her heroism I really enjoyed and made the film feel that more unique. She also has a son, Aidan (David Dorfman), who's meant to add some sort of creepiness factor to the narrative but, honestly, never succeeds. Brian Cox makes an appearance in the latter half and is much better at providing the scariness than the boy, as well as raising our suspicions. 'The Ring' has some admitted drawbacks, but they're rather minor compared to the film's overall effectiveness in generating a genuinely unsettling and eerie atmosphere, accompanied by an engaging mystery. Or perhaps, watching it alone with the lights off might have something to do with its enjoyment.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Paramount Home Entertainment releases 'The Ring' to Blu-ray as a Best Buy exclusive. The Region A locked, BD50 disc is housed inside a blue eco-cutout keepcase and comes with a lenticular slipcover. At startup, the disc goes straight to the main menu with clips from both the movie and the videotape. Wait long enough and viewers can watch it play backwards back to the beginning.
I thought the DVD of 'The Ring' was pretty great-looking when it was released several years ago, but this 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode blows it out of the water by a mile.
Samara invades our living rooms with excellent definition and clarity in nearly every scene. Fine lines around clothing, hair and random household items are razor-sharp while the pores and natural textures on the faces of actors are revealing and detailed. A few, somewhat blurrier sequences — likely the result of the original cinematography — are noticeable and bring the overall quality down a smidgen. Speaking of which, the timing appears to have been changed to a strong greenish tone, but thankfully, it doesn't ruin the beautiful, bokeh-like photography of Bojan Bazelli.
As for the rest of the presentation, contrast is slightly subdued with bright whites throughout, adding to the gloomy atmosphere. Visibility in the far distance and during the poorly-lit interiors is not affected, however, and there's much to see in every scene. The palette, on the other hand, is practically drained of color since greens and a bit of blue serve as the primary shades. Reds do manage to creep into the picture on occasion and are cleanly rendered. Black levels are superb and penetrating, providing a great deal of dimensionality to the image.
Overall, the high-def transfer is very satisfying and should please fans everywhere.
Along with the video, Paramount also upgrades the movie's original audio design to a DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack that's just as terrific and entertaining. Dialogue reproduction is well-prioritized and intelligible from beginning to end, including the whispered conversations of Naomi Watts. Channel separation is excellent with good fluid movement across the soundstage, creating a wide and welcoming image that's highly engaging. Dynamic range is sharp and detailed, distinguishing between the highs and mids during musical cues and the shocking scare moments with brilliant clarity and fidelity. These same scenes, along with Hans Zimmer's haunting score, spread into the rears with subtlety and satisfyingly surround the listener with a creepy vibe. There isn't much bass to speak of, but the high-rez track does offer a couple instances of low-frequency, providing some depth and weight to the music as well as jump scares.
All in all, 'The Ring' comes with a first-rate lossless mix on Blu-ray.
The same extras from the special edition DVD are ported for this Blu-ray edition of 'The Ring.'
A decade since its release, 'The Ring' still delivers a frightening mood and eerie atmosphere in a mystery thriller that's also equally engaging. Starring Naomi Watts and Brian Cox, Gore Verbinski directs this remake of the J-horror favorite based on the novel by Koji Suzuki and reveals he possesses a talent for this sort of material. The horror film about a mysterious VHS tape that kills steps through home-theater screens via Blu-ray with a shockingly excellent picture quality and satisfying audio presentation. Bonus features are nothing to write home about although they're entertaining nonetheless for fans, making the overall package a strong upgrade for those wanting a better picture and sound. Recommended.