• Ringu (Arrow Video) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Arrow Video
    Released on: October 29th, 2019.
    Director: Hideo Nakata
    Cast: Nanako Matsushima, Miki Nakatani, Yûko Takeuchi, Hitomi Satô, Hiroyuki Sanada
    Year: 1998
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    Ringu – Movie Review:

    A pretty young newspaper woman named Reiko Asakawa (played by Nanako Matsushima) has recently split up with her, Ryuji (Hiroyuki Sanada). Together, they have a son named Yoichi (Rikiya Otaka) and despite the fact that they're divorced, they remain on pretty good terms with one another, possibly for Yoichi's sake, possibly because they still care for one another.

    Reiko becomes alerted to the bizarre death of her niece, Tomoko (Yuko Takeuchi), who investigating officers were shocked to find lying dead with an expression of absolute fear and terror burned into her face. To make matters more confusing, Tomoko's three best friends also died at the same time with similar expressions on their faces. Reiko takes it upon herself to start nosing around to find out what exactly happened to these poor kids – she is, after all, a journalist and it is in her nature to do so. As she starts investigating, she gets word of a mysterious videotape that's been making the rounds that supposedly kills you one week to the second after you finish watching the thing. Reiko, after some clever detective work, manages to track the tape down and soon she sets herself down to watch it. Once she does, things start to get a little out of hand for her and Ryuji, who also gets a chance to see it. With the seven-day time limit creeping up on them faster than they realize, Reiko and Ryuji will have to figure things out quickly or pay the same price that the three teenagers did before them. Who is the girl named Sadako (Rie Inou) in the tape? Why and how is she killing people? Where did she come from? There's a lot of questions they'll need to find answers to before it's too late.

    Strong acting from Hiroyuki Sanada and Nanako Matsushima helps to anchor this picture and allow us to accept what is, in all reality, kind of a wonky concept for a horror movie. These two are quite believable in their roles and that helps us immensely when it comes to suspending our disbelief. Of course, Rie Inou as Sadako steals every scene that she’s in but the human element of this story is very well-handled.

    Hideo Nakata’s direction also plays a huge part in making this all work. This film doesn’t rush at you with jump scares, rather, it takes its time to build characters and the movie is all the better for it. The sense of creeping dread that the movie conjures up in its second half is expertly handled and the effects work, while hardly over the top or super flashy, is done really well. There are a few very memorable shots and set pieces in this picture that will stick with you long after you’ve seen it.

    The strongest of the movies in the Ring series, Hideo Nakata's original film, based on the novel by Kôji Suzuki is an excellent horror movie that builds and builds and builds so expertly that it's really hard not to get pulled into the characters and their plights. Climaxing with one of the most memorably horrific set pieces in recent years, the movie is relentless in its subtle suspense. No matter how cliché some of this may seem now that the formula has been used and abused all the way from Tokyo to Hollywood a few times over now, this film holds up and it remains just as scary now as it did almost ten years ago when it was first made.

    Some notes on the whole ‘Ringu’ versus ‘The Ring’ thing – while this review refers to the film as The Ring (simply because the word ‘Ringu’ is kind of annoying and not really a word), it was released on home video through Dreamworks as Ringu, which is an attempt to create an English version of how the original Japanese title is pronounced, likely to differentiate this picture from the American The Ring films that were also released by Dreamworks. The more you know!

    Ringu – Blu-ray Review:

    Arrow brings The Ring to Blu-ray taken from a ‘brand new 4K restoration from the original camera negative, approved by director of photography Junichiro Hayashi’ in 1080p high definition on a 50GB disc framed in its original 1.85.1 widescreen theatrical aspect ratio. The transfer here is very strong. This is a movie that was made with a fairly bland color palette so don’t expect it to look like something it isn’t, but the Earth tones and dark colors never bury detail and black levels remain strong throughout. When the movie does employ brighter colors, they pop quite nicely. Skin tones look just fine throughout and there’s a lot more depth and detail here than was evident on the DVD release that came out years back. No problems to note with any compression issues, noise reduction or edge enhancement. The Ring looks really good on Blu-ray, fans should be quite pleased with Arrow’s efforts here.

    Audio options are offered up in Japanese language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio and LPCM 2.0 Stereo options with optional subtitles provided in English only. Both tracks sound quite nice, with the 5.1 mix spreading out the score and some of the effects work into the rear channels rather effectively. Levels are properly balanced and both tracks are clean, free of any noticeable hiss or distortion. The subtitles are also nice and clear, easy to read.

    Extras are pretty solid here, starting with a new audio commentary by film historian David Kalat that covers the film’s literary origins, discusses Hakata’s career up to and including this point, talks up the performances and, of course, the film’s big set pieces. There’s also talk here about the titling of the film in different territories, how and why this film had such a massive impact on the Japanese horror movie scene of the late 90’s and early 2000’s, the influence that this film had in its homeland and abroad and quite a bit more. Kalat speaks well and has clearly done his research here, he’s got a lot to say about the picture and those who made it as well as its history – interesting stuff.

    The Ringu Legacy is a twenty-eight-minute featurette made up of a series of new interviews from critics and filmmakers on the impact and legacy of this film and its sequels. It’s an interesting look back at the J-horror explosion that came in this film’s wake that also features a nice selection of poster and home video release art worked in with the interviews and hey, they even credit Tartan Video with their part in making all of this material to English language markets.

    A Vicious Circle is a twenty-one-minute video interview with author and critic Kat Ellinger on the career of Hideo Nakata. She speaks here about his career in the Japanese movie industry and some of the other horror pictures he’s made over the years, his style, his background and his influence. Circumnavigating Ringu, a new twenty-five-minute video essay by author and critic Alexandra Heller-Nicholas on the evolution of the Ringu series that looks at this original film and the sequels and compares them to the book that started it all while also offering up some welcome background information on author Suzuki.

    Finishing up the extras are a UK theatrical trailer for the feature, a trailer for the Ring/Spiral double feature, a still gallery, a minute’s worth of ‘Sadako’s Videos,’ menus and chapter selection. As only a test disc was sent for review we can’t comment on liners or packaging.

    Ringu – The Final Word:

    The Ring remains an excellent horror film. It’s eerie, atmospheric and very original and it features strong acting and great characters. Arrow’s Blu-ray release gives the film a welcome high definition upgrade with a strong presentation and a good assortment of supplements. Highly recommended.

    Click on the images below for full sized Ringu Blu-ray screen caps!