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Ringu
SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.85:1 Widescreen
  • Japanese PCM Stereo
  • Japanese DTS-HD 5.1 Surround
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • New audio commentary by film historian David Kalat
  • The Ringu Legacy, a series of new interviews from critics and filmmakers on their memories of the Ringu 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 Ringu, a new video essay by author and critic Alexandra Heller-Nicholas on the evolution of the Ringu series
  • Sadako’s Video
  • Theatrical trailers

Ringu

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Hideo Nakata
1998 | 95 Minutes

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $99.95 | Series: Arrow Video
MVD Visual

Release Date: October 29, 2019
Review Date: October 28, 2019

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amazon.com  amazon.ca

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SYNOPSIS

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 introduced 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. A group of teenage friends are found dead, their bodies grotesquely contorted, their faces twisted in terror. Reiko (Nanako Matsushima, When Marnie Was There), a journalist and the aunt of one of the victims, sets out to investigate the shocking phenomenon, and in the process uncovers a creepy urban legend about a supposedly cursed videotape, the contents of which causes anyone who views it to die within a week - unless they can persuade someone else to watch it, and, in so doing, pass on the curse... Arrow Video is proud to present Ringu, the film that started it all, restored from the original negative in glorious high definition and supplemented by a wealth of archival and newly created bonus materials.


PICTURE

Opting to go by its more American title, Arrow Video presents Hideo Nakata’s Ringu on Blu-ray in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and encoded at 1080p/24hz on a dual-layer disc. Arrow has also been able to perform a new restoration for the film, scanned in 4K from the 35mm original camera negative. The film is available on its own or in the Ringu Collection box set, which also includes Ringu 2 and Ringu 0. I am reviewing the disc from the box set.

After the disappointing presentations found on a couple of Arrow’s other Japanese horror releases (Pulse and Nakata’s own Dark Water) I was initially tempering expectations for this title despite knowing this one was receiving an all-new restoration, more so I wouldn’t be disappointed. But that hesitation immediately diminished once the film got going and it was clear to see that the film really received the royal treatment. So far this is the best-looking presentation I’ve seen for a 90s Japanese horror film on Blu-ray, offering a shockingly sharp and clean image, rendering grain perfectly and delivering fine object detail like it was nothing, all of which is most striking in the exterior shots. My experience with the film prior to this was through DreamWorks’ DVD, which I thought was fine enough for the format, but it’s incredible how muddy it looks now in comparison to this. Though the film goes for a creepy, unsettling atmosphere it still manages to look bold and crisp, daytime sequences looking most striking with superb colours and saturation. Darker scenes are aided by the black levels, which are inky and deep, delivering decent shadow detail in the process.

The digital presentation is clean, giving the image a wonderful photographic look. Restoration work has also impressively cleaned up damage and nothing much remains. In all this presentation is up to Arrow’s usual standards and just a wonderful surprise.

9/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

Arrow includes two Japanese soundtracks: a PCM 2.0 stereo surround presentation and a DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround remix. Both tracks are dynamic with superb range and fidelity, both offering clear dialogue, sharp music, and great jump effects. They both use the soundfield in subtle ways to create a terrific sense of dread at the right moments, enveloping the viewer. The 5.1 track does do a better job of it, though, taking advantage of the separate channels, better directing music and effects around the viewer, even managing to make music and some effects sound like they’re overtop. Moments involving rain, for example, make it sound as though it’s pouring from above, an effect the 2.0 track can’t pull off nearly as well. Because of this the 5.1 track is the one I’ll probably stick with.

8/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Arrow’s special edition makes up for DreamWorks’ lackluster DVD, which I believe only included a trailer (if that), and packs on a lot of material, though I should point out that most viewers may want to hold off on delving into them until after they have viewed the other films in the series (or at least in this set) as there are spoilers galore throughout these features.

Arrow starts things off right with a new audio commentary featuring David Kalat, author of the book J-Horror: The Definitive Guide to The Ring, The Grudge and Beyond. Though Arrow has delved into “J-Horror” and its popularity in the West with previous releases, Kalat’s commentary offers a crash-course on the subject, getting into the history of the subgenre, explaining where it started and how it developed into what it became in the 90s before heavily influencing horror films in North America and beyond. The track does focus primarily on Ringu of course but Kalat does also talk about the two direct sequels (Ringu 2 and the kinda-forgotten Spiral) and the prequel (Ringu 0), while also covering the original novels (which were more science-fiction in nature), a previous softcore adaptation (which sounds pretty wild, though by all accounts it’s a crushing bore), and then the various spin offs and remakes, including the American one and its sequel directed by Nakata. The track is loaded with an astounding level of information, covering a wide array of topics, but Kalat has planned it out well, going from topic to topic in a natural manner to make sure to never lose the listener. I assume he has it all planned out and is more than likely using notes or even a script but it never sounds like it. It’s a wonderful track and is a strong addition all on its own.

Arrow adds on some more scholarly material, next presenting a new video program called The Ring Legacy, featuring interviews with critics Andrew Kasch, Rebekah McKendry, Ph.D., and Alyse Wax, all of whom reflect on first seeing the film(s) and what grew out of it after. Another feature later on gets into the various sequels and spin-offs that followed, but the participants do talk about the other films that came to be, offering their own thoughts on them (some favourable, some not), and then how Hollywood capitalized on this (this led to Japanese studios just churning out horror films knowing Hollywood would just buy up the rights to do a remake). It’s a strong critical analysis of the series of films and it also manages to be a bit of fun, ending with Kasch complaining about the American title for the Japanese film, Ringu, explaining how that title came to be.

Next up is a new interview with Kat Ellinger. Ellinger explains the impact the film had on her at the time, actually scaring her after having to put up with the trend of cynical, self-aware horror films that came from the eventual success of Scream. She then talks about director Hideo Nakata and how he came to direct horror when he actually had no interest in the genre, only doing the first Ring film and other horror after with the hopes of getting financing for his film on director Joseph Losey. From here she talks about “J-Horror” and what the Ring films kicked off, and how the influence of these films carried over to the West. Kalat’s track offers the most clinical (though no less fascinating) look at the subgenre while Ellinger’s offers more of a personal insight into it.

Further adding on to the impact of the Ring films, Alexandria Heller-Nicholas next provides a new 25-minute video essay called Circumnavigating Ring, which aims to help newcomers (or even those only somewhat knowledgeable of these film) navigate through the rather complex and convoluted mythology behind the Ring films, told through multiple films, remakes, reimaginings, cross-overs, novels, manga, video games, books and more. I was somewhat aware of the various materials out there but was beyond shocked by just how much stuff there was. The essay goes through the material in order, starting with the novels, giving a decent overview of them (which Kalat also did in his track) before covering each film after. Though I’ve always been happy with Ringu and even the American remake on their own, it’s great to get a sort of glimpse into how the mythology has developed and morphed through the years, even if a lot of it sounds boneheaded (a Freddy vs. Jason type cross-over film with The Grudge!?)

The disc then closes off with a few short supplements. You can watch Sadako’s video, which runs 50-seconds, two of the Ring/Spiral double-feature trailers from the Japanese release, or the UK trailer. There’s also an odd photo gallery that just presents the director and the film’s star at a panel.

The other discs in the set present their own features while Arrow also includes a booklet with it, but even on its own this edition of Ringu packs on some great material, offering a wonderful bit of background to the series and J-Horror overall. A very thorough set of features.

8/10

CLOSING

Arrow’s Blu-ray for the first Ring film provides a superb digital presentation and a slew of extras that provide a crash course on J-Horror and the Ring series. A stellar release even on its own.




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Purchase From:
amazon.com  amazon.ca