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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 3/11/03

1998 (2003) - DreamWorks

review by Dan Kelly of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Ringu Film Rating: B

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/A-/F

Specs and Features

95 mins, NR, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 46:26 in chapter 11), 4 theatrical trailers (for The Ring, 8 Mile, Catch Me If You Can and Empire), animated film-themed menu screens with sound, scene access (18 chapters), languages: Japanese (DD 5.1 and 2.0), subtitles: English, Spanish and French

In 1998, Japan released a creepy little horror film called Ringu. It proved so popular that it spawned a few sequels along with a television series. DreamWorks caught wind of the phenomenon and snatched up the North American distribution rights, so they could instead release their own version of it. The story is roughly the same - an urban legend about a mysterious video cassette filled with haunting images that assures death to viewers in a week's time. But is the Japanese original any better than the American remake? Both films share the same weakness, but I found Ringu to be a little more competent as an out and out horror film.

In some ways, it's unfair to compare the two films, but since Ringu only has an audience here in the United States because of the remake, such comparisons are unavoidable. Running just over 90 minutes in length, Ringu is a compact film that focuses on delivering scares instead of explanations. By resisting the urge to explain itself to death, it keeps your attention directed to the good parts of the movie: the chilling imagery and jump-out-of-your-seat scares. Director Hideo Nakato takes a minimalist approach to the story and lets the scares stand on their own. If you liked The Ring, you might just like Ringu... perhaps even more.

On DVD, the 1.85:1 anamorphic image looks pretty spiffy, and is culled from a clean source print. There's a fair amount of grain on the image, but it's to be expected of a lower budget film. The color palette is intentionally muted, with a subdued grayish tone that reflects the film's persistent rain. Colors are rendered faithfully and black level is exceptionally strong. The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track (also offered in its original 2.0) is surprisingly good and offers up a lot of effective zinger effects in the surround channels. Panning effects are prevalent across the front, though rear channel separation is minimal. Action on the .1 LFE is noticeably heavy, though not overdone, and dialogue is maintained to the center speaker.

Seeing as the only extras are of the promotional variety (a few trailers for other upcoming Universal and DreamWorks DVD releases), the disc's steep $30 price tag seems gratuitous. There's not even an insert for crying out loud! I don't object to a bare-bones disc, so long as its price reflects it. And that is, sadly, not the case here.

Ringu is a must if you were introduced to this story with The Ring. This is the first time the film's been available in the United States, and this DVD doesn't feature Sadako's video as a stand-alone feature (as did the previous Region 2 release). That's not necessarily a loss, but the high asking price is a shame.

Dan Kelly

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