Movie Review: Ring Limited Edition Collection

By Drew Hurley 02.03.2019

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Ring Limited Edition Collection (UK Rating: 15)

While talented creators like Jordan Peele and John Krasinski are bringing horror back to the mainstream in the West with their fresh, innovative stories, it's a genre that hasn't needed innovating in Asia. In Japan, China, and Korea, horror has remained on the top of its game. Case in point: the Ring series. Since the initial adaptation of Koji Suzuki's novel in 1998, the series has spawned a fandom around the world, with numerous films, manga, TV series, and a popular remake series in the US. Now, in celebration of the series' 20th anniversary, Arrow Video is re-releasing the original film with both its alternate sequels of Spiral and Ring 2, along with the prequel, Ring 0. This collection is available in cinemas from 1st March, and digital, DVD, Blu-ray, Limited Edition Steelbook, and Limited Edition Collection from 18th March.

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Since the Ring was adapted into a Hollywood film and received two sequels, one as recent as 2017, the basic premise is quite widely known. A cursed videotape of disturbing scenes causes anyone who watches it to die seven days later. In the first film, a group of four teenagers - two couples - head out to stay at a cabin together. A week later, all four die - on the same day, and each found with a twisted expression of terror and agony. One of the victims of this tragedy - a girl named Tomoko - has an aunt with an inquisitive nature who is determined to find out what really happened to her niece. This aunt is Reiko Asakawa, a single mother and investigative journalist who through her investigation inflicts the same curse upon herself as the one that cost Tomoko her life.

The rumours have already been swirling in the schools about a cursed videotape; rumours that the four kids at the cabin watched this tape and that what happened to them happens to anyone who is foolish enough to watch the tape. A sinister phone call; seven days after watching the videotape, the viewer dies.  Reiko's investigation leads her back to the cabin her niece visited and there she not only finds but watches the cursed tape. She confides in her estranged (and strange) husband, Ryuji, terrified that her death sentence will leave her son, Youichi, without a parent to look after him. Ryuji takes the sensible course of action to watch the tape, too - for some reason… Afterwards, Reiko makes him a copy for them each to study. Their investigation leads them to a quiet little fishing village upon the island of Oshima, where the series' star Sadako once lived; tracking down the locations from the scenes in the videotape, hoping to find a cure to their curse.

Those who have yet to see any of the films, there are small spoilers for each preceding film here. Following this film, the series splits. Originally, it received the sequel, Spiral, or Rasen as it was known in Japan; this was an adaptation of the second novel in Koji Suzuki's series. This film was originally released at the same time as the Ring in Japan, but was not well received. Following on from the events of the first film, Spiral opens after the death Ryuji. His corpse acting as the catalyst for the story as his friend Mitsuo Ando performs the autopsy on his body. Ando is a fantastic character for a protagonist; he is a broken man - a man who is struggling with the tragic death of his young son and regularly contemplating suicide. Together with Ryuji's former student Mai, Ando embarks on the same quest as his predecessors, to try and uncover the truth and history of the cursed tape.

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Spiral goes wayyyyyy out there on the weird. There's talk of reincarnation, bringing souls back from the dead, and possession to give birth to oneself. There are some wonderful character moments with Ando and some chilling moments but, ultimately, it is forgotten with good reason. The twists and major changes to the series' lore just don't work as well as the alternative story that was later told in Ring 2.

A year after the release of Ring and Spiral, this alternative sequel to the original Ring was released; ignoring and abandoning the stories of the original creator and crafting a wholly original story. This new tale begins shortly after the conclusion to the first film; Reiko having established a way to escape the curse… by copying the video and passing it on, thus creating the deadliest chain letter of all time. By doing this, she saved herself, but Ryuji wasn't so lucky. The issue she had to face now was her son Yoichi had also seen the tape. At the conclusion to the first film, Reiko realises what she has to do to save her son - making a new copy and showing it to her father, to save her son, Yoichi. Now, this new film opens with Reiko's father dead, while she and her son are nowhere to be found.

The police begin an investigation to track them down. Meanwhile, the story shifts to following Mai Takano, the assistant to Reiko's estranged husband, Ryuji. The same Mai from Spiral. Mai and Yoichi become the stars of this story, with Sadako's curse taking the form of her anger, which passes to other people. Other ESP-sensitive individuals are able to take it in, and the film focuses on how these individuals suffer from the same stigmas Sadako and her mother suffered.

Finally, there's Ring 0, a prequel to the original, and once again based on the books of Koji Suzuki. Set 30 years before the original Ring, the film follows Akiko Miyaji, a character previously unmentioned. She's a reporter and the fiancée of Sadako's first victim. During the original Ring, the investigation shows Sadako's mother demonstrating ESP powers, but the demonstration comes to a shocking end when a journalist starts questioning the demonstration, yelling that it's all fake. This journalist is Akiko's fiancé and he doesn't survive his disruption.

Years after his death, Akiko travels to Oshima to try and work out what happened to her beloved. She finds Sadako as a young woman, who is struggling with disturbing nightmares, and has taken to acting as a method to try and overcome her psychological horrors. This prequel is actually based on a short story by Suzuki, entitled Lemon. It's a sad tale of an ostracised girl trying desperately to be normal, while a dark force works against her. This retelling gives a drastic departure to the established lore, with a surprising reveal on just what drove Sadako's killing spree in the other films. In a way, Ring 0 actually does more damage to the franchise than good. By trying to give an alternative reason and humanise Sadako, instead of instilling a sense of pity in the audience, it removes much of the Onryo elements of Sadako, detracting from her terror and mystique.

Anniversary editions often bring out the big guns for fans, and this one is no exception. It looks wonderful, thanks to a brand new 1080p restoration from the original film negative, one that has been fully approved by the director of photography, Junichiro Hayashi. This is combined with lossless Japanese DTS-HD master audio 5.1 and PCM 2.0 soundtrack, with optional English subtitles.

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Then there are the special features. Best of these is a series of featurettes, or video essays, from various experts in the genre. Particularly enjoyable is a 37-minute video essay entitled, Spooks, Sighs, and Videotape by J-horror expert, Jasper Sharp, on the series and J-horror in general. Then there's A Vicious Circle, where author Kat Ellinger looks at Hideo Nakata, writer/director of the Ring and Ring 2. He has been a major element of J-Horror for decades and is now working on the latest instalment of the Ring franchise, Sadako, due out this year. Next up, author Alexandra Heller-Nicholas narrates Circumnavigating the Ring, a featurette that looks at how the franchise has evolved. There is also The Psychology of Fear, where archival interview footage with series author Koji Suzuki has been re-edited into a single video. Finally, there is Ring Legacy, which gathers up interviews from various critics and filmmakers on their impressions of the iconic series. Then there are new audio commentary tracks for the films, the original voiced by film historian David Kalat, and Ring 0 by author and critic Alexandra Heller-Nicholas. Finally, there are archival Behind-the-Scenes featurette and deleted scenes from Ring 0, Sadako's Video, for those who want to risk receiving a phone call, and a bunch of original theatrical trailers.

Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10
Ring inspired a generation of horror, showing that jump-scares and horrific violence weren't a requirement. It instead instilled a sense of dread in its audience, leaving a creepy feeling that remained long after. Even after all these years, it still manages to evoke those same feelings. The imagery of Sadako crawling out from the well, or out through the television, the iconic visuals of the white dress offset by the flowing long hair obscuring her face… bar the one eye… Ring Limited Edition Collection gives fans a chance to re-experience this horror classic, in the best possible form and deserves to take pride of place in any horror aficionado's collection.

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