Plot: What’s it about?
Very few films nowadays can truly be considered “scary”. The Ring, however, is one of them. While Hollywood is still cranking out some gems in the “A” list horror market these days (most recently with Scream and The Blair Witch Project), for the most part the slasher/horror flick almost began and ended with Psycho. I’ll be the first to admit that I really don’t scare easily, and I’ll say that Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is the scariest movie I’ve ever seen, I still find it hard to sit through. So it was with the utmost anticipation that I sat down to watch The Ring. While I had missed it in its theatrical run, I was aware that it became the sleeper hit of last fall; garnering well over 100 million dollars at the domestic box-office. Granted, some movies do that in a weekend now, but this was a true word of mouth sleeper hit. For a movie as mainstream as this, I was surprised at how scary it really was. The cast was still unknown with Naomi Watts in the lead (best-known for her role in David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive) and a pretty unrecognizable cast backing her up. Could it work? Evidently so…
The movie opens somewhat akin to Scream, where we have two teens sitting in a room. The talk turns to a video that one of them has seen the week before and in true “Urban Legend” style, it’s said that exactly one week after you see the tape, you’ll die. In a scene that builds suspense and terror, that prophecy is fulfilled and then we cut to the real “meat” of the story. Rachel (Naomi Watts) just happens to be the aunt of the girl who had seen the tape and her son, Aidan (David Dorfman) happened to be very close to her. Rachel is a reporter for the Seattle Post and uses her skills as a reporter to try and get to the bottom of what happened. It’s not long that she learns that the girl who died and three of her friends all died at exactly the same time. Using her intuition, she heads up to a cabin where they viewed the tape and before she knows it, she’s seen the tape and supposedly only has seven days to live. The movie divides the scenes up into days as Rachel and her friend, Noah (Martin Henderson) try to get to the bottom of what it is that’s happening. Now this is where the movie does tend to slow down a bit. Noah and Rachel analyze the tape (all while knowing that this could be the last week of their lives) and are trying to figure out what the images on the tape represent and what the meaning of the tape might be. Putting the pieces of the puzzle together is not only a race for time, but we’re bombarded with enough imagery to last a lifetime!
What made The Ring so frightfully scary is not the story, though it is a bit weird (and being a person who watches a lot of “tapes” for this website, it was a bit unnerving) that watching TV could really get you killed. There are a few scenes in the film that I literally had to cover my eyes at. Yes, a 30 year old guy who’s seen thousands of movies was scared enough that he didn’t want to see much more. The use of cuts and some plain bizarre images early on were enough to make me uneasy the rest of the way through the movie. I guess that’s the point of the movie, eh? Still, The Ring, unlike so many other movies out there, will leave you wanting a bit more even though you’ll most likely be scared out of your mind. The cast does a great job and it does show you what an actual story can do to sell a film. The director, Gore Verbinski, is most likely remembered for his light-hearted efforts like The Mexican and Mouse Hunt. He’s taken a turn for the darker, but maybe he’s found his calling? In any case, this is something I’ll recommend to friends and family for a good scare; but I don’t know if I’ll be watching any tapes in the near future…
Video: How does it look?
The Ring is presented in it’s 1.85:1 anamorphic ratio. The story takes place in Seattle and they make no secret of the stereotype that it rains a lot there. In nearly every scene, it’s either cloudy or raining. This does give the film a very saturated look and feel, but it’s very consistent with the rest of the movie. Colors are bold and even vivid in some outdoor scenes. As you might expect, there are a lot of darker scenes and this can be bad news when it comes to some compression artifacts and black levels. I’m happy to say that the transfer handles it almost perfectly. While this isn’t reference-quality, it’s just a tick below. The transfer is very representative of a new to DVD release and those wanting a great-looking DVD won’t be disappointed.
Audio: How does it sound?
Like a lot of other releases by Dreamworks, The Ring has dual DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. As per usual, I listened to the DTS for the majority of the movie and then switched it over to the Dolby Digital. There isn’t a whole lot of difference between the two. Surrounds are used at very key points during the film (and the effect works, trust me) and both tracks make perfect use of the sound. While the DTS has an edge when it comes to the discrete effects, the Dolby Digital has a bit more harsh impact at points (i.e. Dolby is essentially “louder”). In any case, both tracks are great no matter which one you choose.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Though a hit at the box office, it appears that the disc is relatively featureless. There are two options on the main menu that state “Don’t look at this” and “Look Here”. One is a set of about 15 minutes of what appear to be some deleted scenes, but there’s really no explanation for them or what they mean. The other option gives us a sneak preview of Catch Me if you Can and 8 Mile. Aside from that, that’s all I could find.