THE RING  [2002]

Director:  Gore Verbinski

Starring:  Naomi Watts, Martin Henderson, David Dorfman, Brian Cox

A young reporter investigates her niece's death, which is linked to a mysterious videotape.

Gore Verbinski's effective remake of Hideo Nakata'a creepy 1998 Japanese horror thriller Ringu doesn't quite have the impact of the original film, (which benefits from the additional edginess of being from a different culture), but it's a very effective chiller in its own right. The remake fleshes out the story considerably, adding a few diversionary new set pieces, and some more characters, but it also persistently spells out each step of the journey, eliminating any requirement for viewers to think for themselves. Anyone who's seen the 1998 version will have a lot of fun spotting which parts have been added for the remake, and which are almost identical in both versions. Neither version of the film is notably "better" than the other, and both can be recommended on their own merits. Ringu is slightly creepier, but The Ring is, understandably, more palatable to Western audiences.

Dreamworks' UK DVD (which is coded for Regions 2 and 4) presents the film in its original 1.85:1 ratio, with anamorphic enhancement. The transfer is slightly dull, but this seems to be intentional. It also seems a little blurry, although much of this can be attributed to Bojan Bazelli's clinically precise cinematography, which often offers very narrow depth of field. Detail levels are generally good, without the extra bite that's often created by over-enthusiastic application of artificial edge-enhancement, (which is practically non-existent here, and is not a distraction). Much of the film has a metallic blue/green caste to it, which is a directorial choice which has subdued the other hues in the image. Of course, this makes the occasional burst of colour (autumnal leaves, for example), seem all the more vibrant. There's nothing wrong with the image, but it isn't especially impressive, either. Average bitrate is a respectable 7.7Mb/s. 

The disc offers three Dolby Digital 5.1 audio mixes, in English, French and German. The English track is at 448kbps, the French and the Germans have to put up with tracks at 384kbps. This means that the much-praised DTS track that's on the Region 1 disc is missing, and this - if nothing else - makes the US disc a more attractive option. The audio mix is more subdued than you might expect from a horror movie, but the track has excellent clarity, offers some very subtle ambience, and serves the film very nicely. Subtitles for the film are offered in English and several other languages. The on-screen captions that count down the seven-day deadline are presented as they originally appeared in the film (they're not player-generated captions), and seem to be present on the disc in English only. 

The UK disc contains the same bonus features as the American version, with the exception of trailers for Ringu and 8 Mile. Not that that amounts to much. The most substantial extra is a fifteen-minute compilation of material accessed through a menu option labeled Don't Watch This. This leads to a number of scenes which were deleted from the film, as part of a montage linked by clips from the film. It's a messy way of presenting deleted scenes, but anyone who has enjoyed the film will find it a very worthwhile supplement (it features an epilogue that adds another minor twist to the story). This presentation offers a few shocks of its own, and more graphic versions of the deaths of a couple of the characters. (Glimpses of some of these deleted scenes were included in the film's trailers, which unfortunately aren't on the DVD). This supplement also has Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, (albeit in English only, with optional English, French, German and Dutch subtitles), and is presented in 1.85:1 ratio, with anamorphic enhancement. The UK disc also contains a trailer for Spielberg's Catch Me If You Can, with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio (at 448kbps). This is accessed from the main menu's Look Here option.   

The disc also features an Easter Egg, also linked from the main menu, offering a full-screen, uninterrupted presentation of the material on the film's mysterious video tape. Annoyingly the ability to slow down the film (to examine some of the almost-subliminal imagery), or speed it up, has been disabled, presumably at the request of the director. Spoilsport!

The lack of substantial bonus materials is a disappointment, but understandable if the filmmakers wanted to maintain the illusion that the film might somehow be "real". The omission of the DTS track will be a deal-breaker for the few UK home cinema fans who have been patient enough to have avoided buying the American version, which was released months earlier. Dropping the DTS track to make room for German and French audio tracks is no longer acceptable now that the UK DVD market is large enough to justify a separate release from the rest of Europe. UK consumers lose out again. 











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