Fantastic! I will be particularly interested to listen to the commentary on Ring 0, aka the prequel film that overly explains the backstory and slightly revises the historical period of past events by having Sadako and company performing a period play. Which both helps explain Sadako's dress sense as well as allowing for an ending that is kind of a homage to Carrie.
This set looks as if it is really going to place everything in context, especially if they are including Spiral. The whole series has a really interesting backstory. Koji Suzuki wrote three novels in the series that all take place in different 'genres': Ring is of course the horror themed one and Hideo Nakata's film plays out similarly to the book; Spiral takes the form of a Robin Cook-style medical thriller with Parasite Eve parallels; and the as yet unfilmed Loop is a sci-fi take on the story of a scientist who has created a virtual world to explore the propagation of an apocalyptically cancerous disease that causes its victims to hallucinate before death in order to save his loved ones from the same fate. The scientist can jump into the simulation and view past events from the previous two books from different perspectives, which is both a novel way to create nostalgia for a reader and also quite similar to World On A Wire/The Thirteenth Floor.
Nakata's Ring and Joji (or George) Iida's Rasen, aka Spiral, came out quite closely together, though I am not certain if they were double billed or not, though this trailer suggests that they were
. Spiral carries over Hiroyuki Sanada and Miki Nakatani from cast of the original Ring, who played the teacher and his girlfriend respectively. The story of Spiral involves the teacher who died at the end of the first film getting autopsied by one of his old school friends (I doubt it did, but I sometimes wonder whether this influenced the much gorier autopsy scene at the beginning of Saw IV! They are weirdly similar!) who resolves to understand the circumstances behind the death, meets the teacher's girlfriend, finds out the gory details about what happened to the ex-wife and son, and eventually inevitably watches the tape. Then things go into very strange Parasite Eve territory of the tape causing Videodrome-like cancerous mutations, but which actually might be the revolution of DNA in order to create a new being (i.e. reproduction and rebirth through unorthodox means!), which is something that an adaptation of Loop would have picked up on for its sci-fi setting.
Unfortunately Spiral appears not to have been that well received, especially compared to the runaway success of Ring. It kind of makes sense as it is the kind of sequel that completely throws out the tone and many of the main characters of the first film for something entirely different. It is also a very slow and talky film, even in its climactic scenes, and plays much more low key than the ticking clock, race against time tension of Ring. I do like it though, and it feels quite close in tone and eerie mood to the other film by Joji Iida that I have seen, Another Heaven
(also about serial murder that encompasses suicidal thoughts, possession and transformation themes), which is also well worth tracking down, especially if you liked that Denzel Washington film Fallen!
So a couple of years later Hideo Nakata (and Nanako Matsushima again playing the main character from the first film though in more of an extended cameo this time around) came back to do Ring 2, which is completely unrelated to the Koji Suzuki Spiral material and instead takes the characters from the original film and furthers them in the horror genre with a newly created storyline. One of the things that makes seeing Spiral and Ring 2 together particularly interesting is to get the chance to see Miki Nakatani playing the same character of the teacher's girlfriend processing the events of the first film but in two entirely different narratives, almost as if they were branching parallel universes separate from each other! (She also gets quite a different kind of role in the events which occur in Spiral compared to Ring 2). And Hiroyuki Sanada turns up briefly from beyond the grave in Ring 2 as well, this time at the end (and a bit in the middle) rather than at the opening of Spiral!
And then Ring 0: Birthday is the prequel to the Nakata series, with the explanation of why Sadako became so grumpy in the first place!
(Fascinatingly Hideo Nakata also popped up to steer the US franchise by directing The Ring 2, so he has kind of rebooted the same material beyond its natural finishing point twice!)
I cannot tell if the other interesting part of the Ring universe, The Ring Virus, is on the set too but it would be understandable if it is not as that is, like the US film, a South Korean remake (with BAE Doo-na's first role!) rather than part of the Japanese series. At least with this set we get the core series and its what-could-have-been, faithful to a fault to the Suzuki series of novels sequel together in one package!