'The Ring Collection' [3-Disc Blu-ray]
(Nanako Matsushima, Miki Nakatani, Yukie Nakama, Kôichi Satô, et al / 3-Disc Blu-ray / NR / 2019 / Arrow Films UK)
Overview: In 1998, director Hideo Nakata ('Dark Water') unleashed a chilling tale of technological terror on unsuspecting audiences, which redefined the horror genre, launched the J-horror boom in the West and introducing a generation of moviegoers to a creepy, dark-haired girl called Sadako.
The film's success spawned a slew of remakes, reimaginations and imitators, but none could quite boast the power of Nakata's original masterpiece, which melded traditional Japanese folklore with contemporary anxieties about the spread of technology.
Arrow Video is proud to present the genre-defining trilogy 'Ring,' the film that started it all, plus Hideo Nakata's chilling sequel, 'Ring 2,' and the haunting origin story, 'Ring 0,' as well as the lost original sequel, George Iida's 'The Spiral', gathered together in glorious high definition and supplemented by a wealth of archival and newly created bonus materials.
Blu-ray Review: Well, for all fans of this series, let alone the horror genre at large, this brand new Blu-ray Box-Set from Arrow Films (UK) and MVD Visual is the ultimate one for the whole 'Ring' world, trust me!
We begin with 'Ringu' (1998), where a reporter and her ex-husband investigate a cursed video tape that is rumored to kill the viewer seven days after watching it.
Nakata's original is a masterpiece of the genre. Without a doubt, this is the scariest film ever made (in my humble opinion). It also marks the only time in my entire life when, upon finishing the film, I rewound the tape and WATCHED IT AGAIN without moving a muscle!
A low budget film, sure, but the lack of money helps rather than hinders the project. For a start the film seems realistic, shot in real houses instead of sets, and with actors who turn in accomplished performances as normal, everyday people.
The slow pacing makes this feel like a documentary and it's actually refreshing to see a film without needless car chases and fancy FX sequences.
The videotape is always the center piece of attention in the movie and the images we see on screen are deliberately thought-provoking, bizarre, abstract, almost dream-like shots which have the power to send a chill down the spine of the most stalwart watcher.
The spooky bits get better as the film progresses: the interlude in the soggy well is a frightening set-piece although nothing happens, just the suspense of the situation is enough to make it work.
The scenes involving the child apparition Sadako are superbly portrayed and should get a reaction out of the most hardened watcher.
Up next is 'Ringu' (1999) which finds Mai Takano trying to learn more about the death of her boyfriend, Ryuji. She soon hears stories about a videotape haunted by the spirit of a girl named Sadako, who died many years earlier.
Supposedly, anyone watching the tape will die of fright exactly one week later. After some investigating, she learns that Ryuji's son, Youichi, is developing the same psychic powers that Sadako had when she was alive.
Mai must now find some way to keep Yuuichi and herself from becoming Sadako's next victims.
Following up the infamous original was never going to be an easy task, but this sequel is generally regarded by critics as being even better.
However, in truth, I felt a little let down. It was still creepy and occasionally scary but the images are now too familiar from the first film to be really unnerving and it loses a little of it's impact.
Mind you, there's still plenty of scary bits or bits that just are creepy, so don't worry about that!
The plot is a lot bigger and suffers a bit as a result, however it is interesting to find out more about the legend of Sadako. The cast are all very good again, despite many of the characters being minor in the last film they still do well.
It's definitely one of the best recent horror sequels I've seen, but then again it doesn't feel like a sequel as it seems to fit in like it was the second half of the original's story.
The trilogy ends with 'Ring 0' (2000) which is actually the prequel to the horror film series and provides the background story of how Sadako later became the vengeful murdering spirit.
The story starts with her as a shy, somewhat withdrawn, college student who nonetheless gets involved in a drama club. The director thinks she has talent, but some of the other performers start to get jealous of the attention he gives her.
Meanwhile, a reporter investigating Sadako's spiritualist mother thinks there's something very suspicious about the young woman, and arrives on campus to confront Sadako just as a series of strange deaths start sweeping through the drama club.
As with the others, 'Ring 0' is a fairly slow-moving film, and a surprise revelation concerning Sadako that comes halfway through is very hard to swallow.
But since it effectively doubles the Sadako quotient, why quibble? Sadako is certainly a fascinating character, and the film's final half hour does repay the slow buildup.
Coming full circle (closing the ring?), the film culminates with the terrible act of attempted murder that we partially witnessed in the original 'Ringu.'
I would also like to give a shout out to the lead actress here, Yukie Nakama, as a shy Sadako, for she is really rather good; even though it's obvious she's a Japanese version of Carrie White ie: misunderstood, creepy and with gifts she never wanted.
This brand new 3-disc Box-Set rounds out with the lost original sequel, George Iida's 'The Spiral' (1998), where a young pathologist seeks answers to the mysterious death of a friend and soon comes into contact with the same cursed videotape that caused the death of the friend's wife and son; which, of course, is haunted by the curse of Sadako, a relentless spirit.
Otherwise known as 'Rasen,' the film delves deep into science-fiction territory with constant talk of viruses, cloning, and so forth. And without spoiling anything, the final act is very much a cautionary tale about science gone out of control.
Which is why it conflicts with the ghost-story established in the first film. This is not a horror movie. This is a Sci-Fi film in the vein of 'The Matrix' or 'Dark City,' though the battles are fought with words and not fists.
However, I personally enjoyed the different direction the story took and the ending had me in tears, not with fright but in joy. The very last scene is extremely predictable, but this didn't stop me from having a good cry!
But if you find it hard to even consider a film about a cursed video, then you'll probably really hate the ending! Also, you'll probably be irritated by the story change if it took some time for you to digest the original story.
All now gathered together in glorious high definition and supplemented by a wealth of archival and newly created bonus materials, these are all Widescreen Presentations (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs via a brand new Blu-ray (1080p) HD presentation and comes with the Special Features of:
Brand new restoration from a 4K scan of the original camera negative of Ring, approved by director of photography Junichiro Hayashi
High definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentations
Lossless Japanese DTS-HD master audio 5.1 and PCM 2.0 soundtracks
Optional English subtitles
Bonus feature: Spiral, George Iida's 1998 sequel to Ring
New audio commentary on Ring by film historian David Kalat
New audio commentary on Ring 0 by author and critic Alexandra Heller-Nicholas
The Ring Legacy, a series of new interviews from critics and filmmakers on their memories of the Ring series and its enduring legacy
A Vicious Circle, a new video interview with author and critic Kat Ellinger on the career of Hideo Nakata
Circumnavigating Ring, a new video essay by author and critic Alexandra Heller-Nicholas on the evolution of the Ring series
Spooks, Sighs and Videotape, a new video essay by critic Jasper Sharp on the J-horror phenomenon
The Psychology of Fear, a newly edited archival interview with author Koji Suzuki
Archival behind-the-scenes featurette on Ring 0
Ring 0 deleted scenes
Multiple theatrical trailers for the Ring series
Limited edition 60-page booklet containing new writing by Violet Lucca, Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, Jasper Sharp, Kieran Fisher and Kat Ellinger
Limited edition packaging featuring original and newly commissioned artwork