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Rings (Blu-ray Review)

The Ring was quite the phenomenon right as the century began. Naomi Watts headlined the US remake of the popular Japanese film and it changed the genre for a good half decade. It was something fresh and different for audiences (Though I’ve always argued part of this film’s ghost agenda and resolution was very much a Stir of Echoes retread), leading to remakes of other popular Japanese ghost films like The Grudge, Pulse and Shutter. Gore Verbinski’s film received a sequel that wasn’t well received and there the franchise died, not making it to the 4 films that its overseas sister-series had. But, things never truly die, as brand recognition is all the rage nowadays and the the spinner landed upon The Ring to be revisited. Rings came, went and confirmed nobody was interested anymore and apparently took Jason Voorhees along with it (You’re really dumb as hell to think these two thing correlate, Paramount execs!). You, too can have another chance to avoid it, confirm how bad it is, or be the first to be the person to find it underappreciated and write a piece to hopefully reevaluate it in a couple years. So many possibilities! Anyway, this one comes out May 2nd on Blu-ray and carries digital copies of the first film (As a thank you) and the sequel (To ask the questions “Were we at least better than this?”). Pre-order below if you choose!

Film 

When a radical college professor finds the mysterious video rumored to kill viewers seven days after watching, he enlists his students in a dangerous experiment to uncover the secrets behind the Samara legend. When the deadly video goes viral, they must figure out a way to break the curse and defeat Samara before her evil is unleashed upon the world. But, how do you stop her when she’s everywhere?

Bringing The Ring back would mean that someone has excitement for it and would be looking forward to making it and returning Samara back into the cinematic horror lexicon. However, absolutely NOBODY in this film looks to be wanting to be there and seem to be just wishing for the 7 days to hurry the hell up and end it. I can’t recall such a combined effort of wooden performances to to go with some slightly uninspired directing in such a bigger studio film in quite a long time.  Don’t see the film, by all means, but really this wall to wall disinterested and stiff acting sorta needs to be seen to be believed. And seriously, Johnny Galecki a pretty good and fun performer and he just looks like he’s waiting for them to hurry up and sign his check so he can go and remodel his kitchen. Hell, D’Onofrio gives a rather pedestrian turn. This combined effort makes poor Aimee Teegarden, the only one remotely looking like they care, appear as if she is over acting just because she’s showing signs of having a pulse.

When the film starts, there is a little bit of a refreshing feeling as it looks like this is just going to be a route sequel to the first two films. Granted, this was never sold as being a remake, just a sorta new sequel to hopefully reboot the franchise. And the movie does take a new direction until ultimately halfway through deciding to be a full remake of the original American version of the film. And man, while I wasn’t too into this movie much before this, its the type of bull that makes you want to just turn it off. This movie wasn’t interested in itself in the first place, and now I get to watch it be uninterested in the original too.

I don’t want to be too hard on direct F. Javier Gutierrez, as there were some signs of potential in terms of a couple setups and some of the camera work (So, maybe its not him, but let me try and be nice). Overall, his directing feels like he’s doing some experimenting and just messing around here and there. It features some repeat moments with camera tricks and reveals that kinda get awkward and definitely aren’t intentional. There are some parts with really good setups and extremely lame payoffs. Hell, Samara’s first real entrance to the movie (Not the silly plane open) winds up being boring and as unsuspenseful as it can get. Yet, Gutierrez managed to set it up well, he just couldn’t get the pay off down. He’s got something there at times, but for the most part no. And as for working with actors…woof.

Samara really didn’t need to come back. The short film “Rings” (Starring Ryan Merriman), that was a bonus and promotional item for The Ring Two, that this film took its title from is a million times better than this in all aspects. Including runtime! When everyone in a film you’re watching really isn’t interested in it and doesn’t seem to want to be there it makes it even more difficult for the person who’s trying to watch this. Rings was moved around on the schedule many times before finally coming out this year in a sorta dump off fashion. This film cost $25 million to make and I want to know where most of that money is, because I didn’t see it on screen. Sucks that they spent so much on this, because if it didn’t cost as much and turned out this same product I would have went the VOD or premiere it on Netflix sorta route.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail:  Rings is a bad movie, but this turd’s transfer paints it nice and gold.  Details are really strong in this sharp and crisp image. Natural colors are really strong. Texture, detail and the look of the “VHS video” scenes are really impressive with every little distortion and filter on it looking pretty groovy. There is a good amount of texture visible at all times. For example newspaper and note clipping carry all sorts of folds, stains, wrinkles and the like.

Depth:  Depth is really good with really solid separation between character and environment. Camera movements are smooth and confident. Background imagery is really clear and discernible given the right focus (You can even make out good information when blurred). Classroom interiors look really good. Movements are natural and contain no real blurring or jitter problems to report.

Black Levels:  Blacks are beautifully saturated and are able to maintain detail and image quality. This movie is really dark and its pretty impressive how it works so well here. No crushing was witnessed on this viewing for the review.

Color Reproduction:  This is kind of a color free movie. Most scenes feature a sorta green filter or blue one to it. Blues can be striking and there are some objects like a red lampshade at one point that pop. The image really carries a natural essence to color.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones are natural and can take a little tint toward whatever filter there is in the film at a given time. It maintains a consistency throughout the runtime. Facial details impress from any reasonable given distance with facial stubble and hair looking really neat. You can also make out make-up covered zits, moles, lip texture, wrinkles, forehead grease gloss and a lot more information is clearly visible at any given time.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 7.1 DTS-HD MA, French 5.1 Dolby Ditial, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital, English Audio Description

Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese

Dynamics:  Putting the second layer of gold paint on this cinematic fecal matter is an awesome 7.1 track. Had the directing and spook scenes been a little more clever or even just present, this could have been quite the adventure. This is a loud one and does keep the vocal volume at just the right spots in order to create loud jumps when applicable. The effects a fully realized, layered and well rounded with some of them feeling very present in the room. There is a healthy mixture and balance of those effects and vocals to go along with a very loud and proud score. Each sounds separate enough that they don’t step on one another’s toes.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension:  The subwoofer blasts pretty good on thunder, crashing, jump scares, doors closing and intensely locking. It also really rumbles with the score to the film as well. Overall, its utilized perfectly which should garner zero complaints.

Surround Sound Presentation:  While no one in this film seems to be having fun, this 7 channel mix is having a a good ol time. All speakers enhance and full represent every environment with the side and rear speakers having their own individual roles and scene specific sounds to go beyond just regular ambiance. Some sounds from them should get a jolt from you as they are actually volumized very high. Song travel proves to be both fun and very accurate.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are crisp and feature plenty of clarity with a strong representation of the actor’s diction.

Extras 

Rings comes with the DVD edition and an UltraViolet digital copy of the film as well as for a limited time The Ring and The Ring Two (One is out of print on Blu-ray, the other never released on Blu-ray). My higher than it should be score is based on the inclusion of those two films (If you’re reading this review past their expiration, subtract a dog).

Terror Comes Full Circle (HD, 12:37) – Starting with remembering the first film, this one briefly heads on through the checklist of production aspects to hit about getting the film done. This and the other featurettes are EPK-ish as they have a Paramount logo at the top and are a bit novice in info delivery and interviews.

Resurrecting the Dead: Bringing Samara Back (HD, 9:19) – This featurette goes over the make-up, costuming and effects for Samara as well as the how and the why to her returning.

Scary Scenes (HD, 6:35) – The film’s cast talk about horror movies and stuff that scared them making this movie.

Deleted/Extended/Alternate Scenes (HD, 18:40)

Summary 

Welp, The Ring completionists and fan club members, its here.  The Blu-ray looks and sounds fantastic, which is good and really helps for the one time viewing. They really spruce this deal up with the addition of the first two films via digital copies. However, I don’t see anyway this one doesn’t hold more strength as a rental as opposed to people purchasing this movie in any way other than a complete collection set. Strong specs (Bonus is soft, but the digital copies are good) on a weak movie. The biggest benefit of buying this release is getting the free digital copies of the original two films.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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