The Ring DVD

Not since the over-hyped “The Blair Witch Project” have I had the pleasure of sitting through (just barely) such a ponderous and preposterous thriller as “The Ring.” If you think that’s praise, look up facetious in the dictionary. Based on the Chinese thriller of the same name, “The Ring” is as annoying as it is cloying.


Naomi Watts stumbles off “Mulholland Drive” to play Rachel Keller, a reporter investigating the mysterious death of her niece, who died after watching a mysterious video. Skeptical, Keller tracks down the video and pops it into her VCR. When the video ends, the phone rings, and a voice on the other end tells Keller she has seven days to live.

At first you think it’s Miss Cleo trying to extort bail money, but Keller suspects a hoax, until she learns that other viewers have also died mysterious deaths. Coincidence or curse? When Keller’s young son watches the video, she uses what time she has left to solve the mystery.

Despite patches of unsettling imagery, there isn’t much in “The Ring” to raise the hair on the back of your neck. The script by Ehren Kruger is purposely confusing, but ultimately feels like a patchwork of scenes from other horror films. Director Gore Verbinski creates fake suspense instead of allowing the story to grab us by the hand and drag us through the horror.

Watts, so indelible in “Mulholland Drive,” is as flat as Rob Schneider’s chest. There’s very little surprise or conviction in her performance. Every emotion feels manufactured, the byproduct of an actress who either isn’t up to the challenge.

Director Verbinski isn’t much help. His first foray into horror feels too studied, the vision of a director making sure he covers all the bases. Instead, he should have taken the cast under his arm and provided them the same consideration. What he ends up with is a film that’s all style with no substance.

In their defense, Verbinski and Kruger have done their homework. Such tapes do exist. While channeling surfing late one evening, I came across an infomercial for one of those home gyms. I called and ordered the video. I watched the video, and seven days later, they called with the hard sell. All I did was watch the video, and now I felt like someone was going to die. Now that’s scary.

DESSERT

DreamWorks has done an excellent job of transferring the film’s 1.85:1 widescreen format to DVD, perfectly capturing the film’s eerie look and feel. The images are crystal clear, with no obvious haloing, artifacts or grain. Every frame looks immaculate, with deep color saturation, flattering flesh tones, invincible blacks, and excellent attention to detail. Depth of field is strong and accurate, while shadows and whites are clean. Equally effective is the 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack (also available in DTS), which makes excellent use of the film’s spooky sound design. The silences are so pure and clean you can hear a pin drop, the perfect antidote for the film’s “jump” moments, which will catch most off guard. Surround effects are well balanced, putting you in the middle of the horror, while the front sound stage provides a well mixed dialogue track and impressive left-to-right stereo separation. Ambient noise is very detailed, and the musical score pours from all speakers with authority. No accidental hiss or distortion. What you see and hear is exactly what you get.

Extras are slim, with the only major addition a 15-minute feature called “Don’t Watch This,” a patched-together compilation that purports to take the viewer deeper inside the world of “The Ring.” It’s an interesting addition, but really doesn’t make up for the lack of other extras. Trailers include “Catch Me If You Can” “8 Mile,” and the original Japanese horror film “Ringu.” I suspect that DreamWorks is working on a special edition for release later in the year.

THE RING 2002

DREAMWORKS HOME VIDEO

RATED PG-13

Naomi Watts, Martin Henderson, David Dorfman, Brian Cox, Jane Alexander, Lindsay Frost. Directed by Gore Verbinski. Rated PG-13.

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