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review added: 3/7/03



The Ring
Widescreen - 2002 (2003) - DreamWorks

review by Dan Kelly of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVsEncoded with DTS & Dolby Digital 5.1 Digital Surround

The Ring (Widescreen) Film Rating: C+

Disc Ratings (Video/Extras): A-/D+

Audio Ratings (DD/DTS): A/A

Specs and Features

115 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 1:03:30 in chapter 13), keep case packaging, a "short film" by Gore Verbinski, 3 theatrical trailers (for Ringu, 8 Mile and Catch Me If You Can), animated film-themed menu screens with sound, scene access (23 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 & 2.0, DTS 5.1) and French (DD 5.1), subtitles: English, Spanish and French

It doesn't take much to please me when I'm watching a horror film. To make me a happy camper, a scary flick needs only do one thing - give me a proper handful of scares. If that happens, I'll forgive most anything else in a horror film. The Ring takes full advantage of this and plants its scares smack dab in the middle of one of the corniest, most contrived plots in a recent movie. Yes, the film has its fair share of jumps and scares, but it's nowhere near as scary as some of its more ardent fans might lead you to believe. If you're willing to swallow a heapin' helpin' of silliness along with those scares, you might just enjoy The Ring. The film is based on a novel by Koji Suzuki - previously adapted as the 1998 Japanese film Ringu - and I'm tempted to read the novel if only to see if the film's basic idea comes across any less ridiculous on paper than it does on film.

Rachel (Naomi Watts), a snoopy journalist, comes across a videotape that terrifies those who view it with a series of haunting images. Immediately after viewing said video, the doomed viewer receives a phone call with a spooky voice on the other end letting him or her know that they'll meet their maker in a week's time. Sure enough, seven days pass and zowie - they're goners. Naysayer Rachel decides to test the theory after she comes across the tape, and she sits bugged eyed two inches in front of the set, taking in the gory clip. She is shocked - SHOCKED! - to find that she does indeed receive the call at the end of the feature presentation. What follows is her desperate attempt to save her life and that of her ne'er-do-well boyfriend, Noah (Martin Henderson) and son, Aidan (David Dorfman), as she sets out to unearth the secrets of the video. That's about all you need to know going into the movie.

The strength of The Ring is in its striking and haunting imagery, courtesy of director Gore Verbinski. Though it seems fairly derivative in nature (I was reminded of director Tarsem Singh's work on The Cell), viewed strictly as a series of images, it works really well. In fact, a lot of the story works, too, but the idea of a VHS cassette killing people seems downright goofy to me. How was the videotape cursed? A voodoo spell perhaps? It makes absolutely no sense, and the less you think about it, the better off you are. The filmmakers seem really torn between the inclination to present the material as a meaningful moral tale and a creepy urban legend. In the end, this works against The Ring, and the padded story drags on a bit too long.

The Ring finds its way into consumer homes less than 5 months after it opened in theatres, and DreamWorks has prepared a nice audio and video package for fans of the film. If you can get past the nauseating lighting and camera choices, the DVD image of The Ring is quite nice. The 1.85:1 anamorphic image is free from any sort of transfer-related defects, and you'll see only occasional glimpses of film grain in the picture. The film itself is pumped full of ripe blues and yellows (you can just about see the veins in everyone's faces), and it gets a bit distracting. Nonetheless, this is the intentional look of the film. There are a few vibrantly colorful scenes, and they exhibit strong color reproduction that contrasts the cold look of the rest of the film. This is a nice effort.

Any of the 5.1 soundtrack options are sure to please. Both the English Dolby Digital 5.1 and its DTS 5.1 counterpart are highly effective mixes, appropriate to a horror film. There is little obvious difference between the two, but the DTS track does pack a bigger punch in the low end of the sound mix. Surrounds are exceptionally active during the movie and come in handy to add a little more jolt to the film's more frightening moments. There's also a fine French language 5.1 mix crammed onto the disc.

Though the DVD is busting at the seams with audio options, the same cannot be said of the extras. There is quite literally nothing worth seeing on here. In the Don't Watch This section of the main menu, you will find a "short film" that the DVD packaging promises will reveal "more electrifying secrets about the mystery of The Ring." What it actually delivers is a dull series of deleted and alternate scenes lamely and inexplicably strung together as a 15-minute piece of film. There's a point in the The Ring where the Noah character refers to the videotape as a "very student film." The same goes double for this useless feature. Elsewhere on the disc, you'll find a teaser trailer for the companion DVD release of Ringu and clips for 8 Mile and Catch Me If You Can. You'll also find "the video" if you look (it's really not that difficult to find). For a film that raked in over 100 million smackers at the box office, you'd think DreamWorks would want to put a little more effort into the extras. Apparently not so.

The Ring is a preposterous film that is occasionally interrupted by some good scares. One thing is certain - the film looks and sounds darn nice on DVD, so if you're sure you'll enjoy repeated viewings, go ahead and pick this DVD up. The lack of extras is a disappointment... but who cares if you're gonna die in a week?

Dan Kelly
dankelly@thedigitalbits.com




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