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The Ringu Collection Blu-ray Review

Written by ZigZag

Blu-ray released by Arrow Video

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Ring
Directed by Hideo Nakata
Written by Hiroshi Takahashi (screenplay), Kôji Suzuki (novel)
1998, 95 minutes, Not Rated
Released on October 29th, 2019

Starring:
Nanako Matsushima as Reiko Asakawa
Hiroyuki Sanada as Ryuji Takayama
Miki Nakatani as Mai Takano
Yûko Takeuchi as Tomoko Ôishi
Hitomi Satô as Masami
Rikiya Ôtaka as Yoichi Asakawa

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Review:

Have you heard the urban legend about the cursed video tape? The story goes that after you watch it your phone will ring and you will die in seven days. Reiko Asakawa is a single mom working as a journalist investigating the legend when her teenage niece Tomoko and a bunch of friends all die on the same day. Reiko does some snooping and finds a clue that leads her to a cabin where the kids stayed a week ago. She discovers an unmarked video cassette and against her better judgment watches it. The phone rings and the countdown begins, with Asakawa now marked for death. As if this nightmare isn’t bad enough, her young son watches the video too and now she has two lives to save. She reaches out to her ex-husband Ryuji Takayama for assistance and together they set out to solve the mystery behind the curse before the week is out.

In 1998, director Hideo Nakata (Dark Water) reinvented the horror genre with his breakout hit Ring (aka Ringu). Based on the 1991 novel by Kôji Suzuki, the plot takes elements of classic Japanese ghost stories and urban legends and mixes them with contemporary fears regarding the spread of technology. The film introduces audiences to a terrifying new figure in Sadako, a pale-skinned girl in a white dress with long black hair covering her face. The character became an iconic image and helped launch the popular Japanese horror (J-horror) craze.

Nakata’s film, written for the screen by Hiroshi Takahashi, begins traditionally enough with two teenage girls setting up the premise of the curse with one confessing to having seen the videotape. The night ends with one girl dead and the other on the way to a psychiatric hospital. Our protagonist Reiko Asakawa investigates the legend and uncovers a mystery involving a psychic woman and her powerful daughter Sadako, both of whom came to tragic ends. Asakawa follows the clues to a remote island where the video was shot and discovers something horrific. Now knowing the secret to breaking the curse, she is faced with a moral dilemma of harming someone else in order to save herself and her son.

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Nakata teases out the mystery as our heroes race to put together clues while simultaneously questioning the very nature of death. Facing an imminent demise, they must decide how best to spend their final hours – be it attempting to escape their fate in some creative way or by spending quality time with friends and loved ones. The characters opt to break the cycle by bringing justice to the dead, but that may not be enough to lift Sadako’s curse. The film ends on a false positive, putting audiences at ease before delivering its biggest scare, one that remains just as effective today as it did twenty years ago.

Ring was a box-office hit that catapulted the J-horror movement to audiences worldwide. The film was paired theatrically with a companion piece titled Spiral (aka Rasen) that serves as an unofficial sequel, but was largely ignored by audiences. Ring 2 was released the following year, and a prequel, Ring 0: Birthday, the year after that. In 2002, the original film was remade for the American market and proved quite successful. Hollywood spent the next several years scooping up the rights to a plethora of popular Asian horror movies and remaking them for domestic audiences. Twenty years on, Ring is viewed as a modern classic and the franchise continues to grow as audiences remain drawn to Sadako’s creepy image.

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Spiral (aka Rasen)
Directed by Jôji Iida
Written by Jôji Iida (screenplay), Kôji Suzuki (novel)
1998, 98 minutes, Not Rated

Starring:
Koichi Sato as Mitsuo Ando
Miki Nakatani as Mai Takano
Hinako Saeki as Sadako
Shingo Tsurumi as Myashita

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Review:

A pathologist named Mitsuo Ando is called to perform an autopsy on Riyuji Takayama, a former acquaintance who died under mysterious circumstances. It appears the man had a heart attack, but further testing reveals a tumor in his throat – along with a scrap of paper. The paper has writing on it that could hold clues to the cause of death. Riyuji’s body was discovered by his assistant Mai Takano, who is reluctant to talk to the police. She confides to Ando that Riyuji was psychic and investigating a cursed videotape with his ex-wife. Ando gets drawn into the mystery and before long he too has seen the video and faces the promise of an impending doom. Mai joins him on his investigation and they learn the story of Sadako, the girl at the center of the curse. He takes steps to ensure that he can break the cycle and be its final victim, but Sadako has other plans for him.

Spiral (aka Rasen) is an unofficial sequel to the hit film Ring that was shot simultaneously – with both pictures using Kôji Suzuki’s popular novels as a source. Spiral shares some overlapping characters and the premise of a cursed videotape, but widely veers from the rules established in Ring. In this story, the curse can be spread not only by video but also in reading from a journal written by Reiko Asakawa, the protagonist of the first movie. This is a ghost that adapts rapidly given that she only wrote the book within the last week. Reiko and her son are written out of this story in a surprisingly dismissive manner and their characters are deeply missed. Instead, we follow supporting character Mai Takano, played once again by the lovely Miki Nakatani (Chaos), who knows about the curse and tries to help Ando escape it. The story is fairly uninspired until it changes the rules yet again with the late introduction of a new goal for Sadako. She is no longer content to passively kill video junkies; now she’s looking to be reborn and to destroy the world.

Written and directed by Jôji Iida (Another Heaven), Spiral suffers from being a product of opportunity. The producers of Ring felt they were onto something lucrative and rushed this title into production before learning what elements of the story proved most popular. Consequently, we lose out on the captivating images of Sadako’s iconic appearance and the disturbing horrors of the corpses she leaves in her wake. Ring is a compelling mystery rich with atmosphere and an overpowering sense of dread, but the same cannot be said for this film. The first hour is half-baked melodrama with underdeveloped characters simply going through the motions. The last twenty minutes introduce some interesting ideas that sound promising, but are fumbled in execution. Audiences did not gravitate to this movie, and when the success of Ring called for a sequel, Spiral was forgotten and a new film was shot the following year.

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Ring 2
Directed by Hideo Nakata
Written by Hiroshi Takahashi (screenplay), Kôji Suzuki (novel)
1999, 95 minutes, Not Rated

Starring:
Miki Nakatani as Mai Takano
Nanako Matsushima as Reiko Asakawa
Rikiya Ôtaka as Yoichi Asakawa
Hitomi Satô as Masami
Yûrei Yanagi as Okazaki

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Review:

Journalist Reiko Asakawa and her son Yoichi have escaped Sadako’s curse, but suffered great personal losses in doing so. Her ex-husband, father and niece all died after watching the damning videotape and she barely survived. Her ex-husband’s assistant Mai Takano found his body and is now looking for answers. Mai contacts Mr. Okazaki, Reiko’s editor at the news outlet, and learns he is continuing her investigation into the cursed tape. They track down a teenage girl named Masami, who was with Reiko’s niece when she died and has since been committed to a mental hospital. At first she is unresponsive, but when Masami sees a television, she has a vision of Sadako’s video and panics. Mai takes the girl’s hand and she too sees the haunting images. The psychiatrist is conducting a series of energy transference experiments and plans to record Masami’s knowledge of Sadako. With the help of young Yoichi, Mai embarks on a new quest to end the curse forever.

Ring 2 (aka Ringu 2) picks up hours after the original story ends with Reiko and Yoichi going into hiding. Supporting character Mai Tanaka moves to the front of the line with her decision to investigate the cursed videotape. She makes a connection to the emotionally challenged Masami and when she physically touches the girl, shares her nightmare vision. Neither Mai nor Masami actually watched Sadako’s video, but apparently you only have to know someone who did. Further muddying the waters is the introduction of psychic powers given to Reiko’s son Yoichi. Mai somehow develops a telepathic connection to the boy and together they may be strong enough to challenge the evil spirit.

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Miki Nakatani returns as Mai Takano, and does a fine job in the lead of this continuing adventure. I am not sure when she became psychic, but it sure comes in handy. Mai was similarly gifted in the failed sequel Spiral the year before. She is an interesting character and I am glad they keep bringing her back, but as stated above – she has never watched the cursed tape and still ends up caught in the middle of this drama. Also back from the first movie is Nanako Matsushima as Reiko Asakawa, who this time around is doing a better job at parenting. Her investigation has clearly taken a toll on her, as she appears uneasy and emotionally drained. Young Rikiya Ôtaka has more to do as Yoichi, whose newfound telekinetic power is giving the ghost the strength to return. This additional talent never quite fits in with the rest of the picture outside of drawing parallels to Sadako’s childhood. It is also nice to see Hitomi Satô as Masami, the doomed teen who doesn’t understand the visions haunting her.

Original Ring director Hideo Nakata takes the legend into new territory with this highly anticipated sequel. Written once again by Hiroshi Takahashi, based on Kôji Suzuki’s novel, the film doubles down on the supernatural by granting psychic abilities to multiple characters. Covering all bases, the screenplay is filled with scientific jargon regarding the ability to use technology to record someone’s thoughts. The story ends with a major science experiment being interrupted by a ghost in a swimming pool. Ring 2 is a busy film that has its moments but lacks the intimacy of the first film that made it so haunting.

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Ringu 0: Birthday
Directed by Norio Tsuruta
Written by Hiroshi Takahashi (screenplay), Kôji Suzuki (novel)
2000, 99 minutes, Not Rated

Starring:
Yukie Nakama as Sadako
Seichi Tanabe as Hiroshi Toyama
Kumiko Aso as Etsuko Tachihara
Yoshiko Tanaka as Akiko Miyaji
Takeshi Wakamatsu as Yusaku Shigemori
Kaoru Okunuki as Aiko Hazuki

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Review:

Sadako Yamamura is a troubled school girl who tries to fit in but has a reputation of being strange. Many of the other students are uncomfortable around her, but the friendly Etsuko Tachihara and handsome Hiroshi Toyama are supportive. Following the sudden death of a drama classmate, Sadako is given the lead in an upcoming play, but her fellow actors are suspicious. Meanwhile, a journalist named Akiko Miyaji is looking for information regarding an incident in Sadako’s past which involves psychic powers and a freak accident that left a man dead. Miyaji talks to former teachers and a doctor for clues and comes to the school where she appeals to Etsuko to join her efforts. When opening night arrives it should be the highlight of Sadako’s life, but fate has something else planned and her nightmare has just begun.

Ringu 0: Birthday is a prequel that carries the uneasy challenge of humanizing an iconic monster. Until now, all we knew about Sadako is that she was a troubled girl who was thrown down a well only to return from the grave by means of a cursed videotape that kills anyone who watches it. Audiences enter this film with the understanding that she is evil and are likely to side with the journalist investigating the story. Where this movie excels is in character development and playing with viewer expectations. Working from a script penned by franchise shepherd Hiroshi Takahashi, director Norio Tsuruta (Premonition) does a great job with this story, making Sadako a tragic figure looking for love and acceptance. The subtle reveal of the villain is quite accomplished and caught me off guard.

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Yukie Nakama (Flowers) brings a refreshing vulnerability to Sadako that draws audiences to her side. We see her interacting with people her own age and possibly considering a love interest. She undergoes a great deal of punishment both physical and psychological before her dark side takes control. The emergence of the wicked Sadako is a powerful visual and definitely a highlight, but may come too late in the story to truly satisfy. The supporting cast is full of strong performances, particularly Yoshiko Tanaka (Godzilla vs. Biollante) as Miyaji, the driven reporter of questionable intent. Seichi Tanabe (Blues Harp) and Kumiko Aso (Pulse) are also really strong as fellow students Toyama and Etsuko respectively.

For a while Ringu 0 marked the end of the series, although there was a Korean remake called Ring Virus (1999) followed by a pair of American versions; The Ring (2002) and The Ring 2 (2005, directed by Hideo Nakata). These latter two pictures were bridged by the short film Rings (2005). From there the franchise was dormant for several years until 2012 saw the Japanese release of Sadako 3D, followed by a sequel the next year. One of the best movies to break out of the J-horror wave is Ju-On: The Grudge (2000), a film that launched its own wildly successful franchise. The villains of these two series were pitted against each other in Sadako vs. Kayako (2016), and in 2017, Hollywood attempted to reboot the cash cow with the dismal and creatively titled Rings, which was widely panned. Marking the twentieth anniversary of the first Ring, director Hideo Nakata returns with a new chapter called Sadako (2019). The video curse has long outlasted the original VHS format and yet the films remain relevant. New technologies invite new fears and there appears to be no end in sight to this circle of terror. I cannot vouch for the movies that came after the American remake in 2002, but the original trilogy (not counting Spiral) is surprisingly strong and comes easily recommended.

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Video and Audio:

All four films in this set are presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio and look terrific. The original Ring receives the most love with an all-new 4K scan and remaster of the camera negative and the results are incredible. Picture quality on the remaining films is also solid and full of rich detail.

Audio options include a DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround mix and a LPCM 2.0 stereo track. The expanded soundtrack introduces some creepy isolated sound effects and more robust music cues.

Optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.

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Special Features:

Disc One: Ring

Film historian David Kalat’s audio commentary covers a lot ground as he begins with notes on the Ring novel and its author. He continues with a biography of director Nakata and his approach to adapting the story to film. There is discussion of the influences this picture had on films both foreign and domestic and the rise and fall of the J-horror craze.

In the newly-recorded video appreciation The Ring Legacy (28 minutes), filmmaker Andrew Kasch, Dr. Rebekah McKendry and author Alyse Wax discuss the history of the franchise and the rise of J-horror. They point out differences from book to film and reflect on the failed 1995 adaptation made for Japanese TV. Other topics include their thoughts on the sequels, rip-offs, the American remake and the onslaught of domestic versions of Asian horrors. They address the changes in video technology from VHS to DVD and how this picture influenced future Hollywood productions, including It Follows and Sinister.

In her video essay A Vicious Circle (21 minutes), film historian Kat Ellinger shares her thoughts on the franchise and the appeal to Western audiences. She explores the social commentary and about how the Japanese theatre influenced its cinematic counterpart. There is some discussion of Japanese horror films of the 1980s and ‘90s and the rise of J-horror around the world.

Author Alexandra Heller-Nicholas traces the history and themes of the franchise in her video appreciation Circumnavigating Ring (25 minutes).

Sadako’s Video (1 minute) presents the cursed video in full frame.

The UK trailer is paired with two promo spots for a double feature of Ringu and Spiral.

A small photo gallery (7 images) featuring stills of the director and lead actress is also included.

Disc Two: Ring 2/Spiral

Author Koji Suzuki reflects on his novels and their adaptations in The Psychology of Fear (25 minutes). He marvels at his success and how the material clicked with audiences and discusses his writing process.

The original UK trailer is joined by a pair of double feature spots.

Disc Three: Ring 0: Birthday

Author Alexandra Heller-Nichols’ audio commentary explores how this film fits into the franchise and succeeds by telling the story from Sadako’s perspective. She points out elements of melodrama, themes of grief, loss and pain and applauds the film’s colorful villain. She also provides biographical information on the cast and director

Spooks, Sighs & Videotape (37 minutes) is a detailed video essay by Jasper Sharp, who studies the resurgence of supernatural horror once popular in the 1950s and the long history of Japan’s ghost tales in literature and in film. He discusses the origins of the female monster in movies, the wealth of horror content on television in the 90s and traces the rise and fall of the J-horror movement in the wake of Ring.

A vintage peek behind the scenes (22 minutes) reveals an intimate look at the filming process. This is an assembly of raw footage shot throughout the production – in Japanese with English subtitles.

A collection of six deleted scenes (7 minutes) that consist of character beats were wisely cut from the finished film for pacing.

The theatrical trailer is paired with an ad for a double feature of Ring 0 and the horror movie Isola.

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Grades:

Ring:

Spiral:

Ring 2:

Ring 0: Birthday:

Fourandahalfstars

Twostars

Threestars

Threeandahalfstars

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The Ringu Collection Small
Buy Amazon Uk
Video: Fourstars
Audio: Threeandahalfstars
Features: Fourandahalfstars
Overall: Fourstars

About The Author
ZigZag
Author: ZigZag
Staff Writer
ZigZag's favorite genres include horror (foreign and domestic), Asian cinema and pornography (foreign and domestic). His ability to seek out and enjoy shot on video (SOV) horror movies is unmatched. His love of films with a budget under $100,000 is unapologetic.
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