If you're a big fan of The Ring – or perhaps if you haven't seen it yet and are debating what to buy – you may have found your eye resting on the Collector's Edition release. Compared to most double- (or triple-) dip releases, this release of The Ring is actually easy to evaluate. It's simply the regular release of the film, packaged exactly the same way, packaged along with a new, separate DVD called Rings. The second disc is basically bonus material, so I've addressed its contents in the Extras section; in the meantime, read on here if you're interested in the review of the film itself.
The Ring is an odd hybrid of stylish, effective storytelling and Swiss-cheese plot. It's a film that does an excellent job of hooking you in and keeping you thoroughly engaged with the story while the film is running... but it's best not to think back too much on the story after the end credits roll, because it doesn't hold up very well to hindsight.
I actually liked The Ring considerably more than I expected. I thought it would be, at best, a modestly entertaining, light-weight horror/thriller flick. What I didn't expect was for it to have some actual depth, or for it to be as polished as it is. Much of the success of The Ring can be credited to its deft handling of genre conventions and viewer expectations, both in terms of the overall plot arc and also in terms of camera work and direction.
As it begins, The Ring seems like it's going to be another entrant in the "urban legend" category of horror films, albeit with a clever new premise (the videotape that kills you when you watch it). But as the story develops, it starts to head off into another direction, as the story focuses on Rachel's (Naomi Watts) investigation of the history behind the deadly tape. For much of the film, then, The Ring takes on the character of a creepy suspense or mystery story. (OK, it also feels a lot like a computer adventure game, but hey, it works.) Toward the end, the resolution uses well-worn horror conventions, with the idea of the restless dead, but even then, a final twist adds a fresh feeling to the overall film.
It's not just in its overall plot arc that The Ring plays with viewer expectations. Whenever we watch a scary movie, we're primed to expect certain jumpy moments: the door opening to reveal something terrible, the monster sneaking up behind the character's shoulder, and so on. The trouble is that the effective feeling of anticipation (the "edge of your seat" feeling) is often then cancelled out by the over-familiarity of the scare tactics. If you know the door's going to open on a horrific sight, it's not so horrific when it happens. So what about The Ring? Director Gore Verbinski does a great job here of playing both with our expectations, and against them. Sometimes it feels like we're being set up for a scare... and it's a false alarm; other times a nasty shock comes when we least expect it. But he balances out these forays outside convention with other scenes in which he plays the scare "by the book." The result is that the whole film has a much scarier, creepier feel to it: we can never truly be sure when something nasty is going to happen.
Of course, true horror-film buffs may have a different take on the scares of The Ring; I freely admit that I scare pretty easily. But in my case, at least, I found The Ring to be quite effectively creepy.
All of this is best appreciated in the midst of the film, when the sleek cinematography and creepy atmosphere work together with the film's brisk pacing to create a smooth and engaging viewing experience. It's when you look back on the film that the holes start to show up. The best films of the mystery/suspense genre offer a feeling of satisfaction when you look back, a sense of "oh... that's how it all fits together!" The Ring feels like one of those films, except that there are a lot of missing puzzle pieces. In retrospect, it's clear that several creepy elements in the story are there just for the sake of being creepy; they're not explained, and in fact don't seem to have a whole lot to do with the way events develop. The Ring is still quite enjoyable, but it won't hold up well to repeat viewings.
The Collector's Edition of The Ring includes the original single-disc edition of the film, and a separate DVD called Rings in its own keepcase.
The Ring appears in a clean and attractive widescreen anamorphic transfer, at the film's original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Colors and contrast are handled well throughout the film, and overall it's a crisp and nicely detailed image. The one fault I'd find with it is the presence of some edge enhancement.
The audio options for The Ring are excellent. The DTS 5.1 track offers a nicely immersive listening experience, with good use of surround sound and a rich and detailed feel to the sound. A Dolby 5.1 track and a Dolby 2.0 track are also included, along with a dubbed French 5.1 track. English closed captions and Spanish and French subtitles are available.
There's nothing particularly special about the special features for The Ring... either on the original single-disc edition, or on the extra disc included in the Collector's Edition.
The Ring includes a short feature called "Don't Watch This," containing 15 minutes of deleted scenes, and trailers for Ringu, Catch Me If You Can, and 8 Mile.
Considering that the Collector's Edition includes a whole other DVD, you'd expect a nice slate of additional bonus materials. Unfortunately, there's nothing of any compelling interest on the Rings DVD. The main special feature here is a 16-minute short film called "Rings," which picks up and explores one of the loose ends in The Ring. It's a reasonably well done piece, but it's certainly not enough by itself to merit the additional DVD. So, what else is there? Not a whole lot, actually. The "never-before-seen interviews with the stars and filmmakers!" come in the form of an eight-minute, promotional-style piece (as in, "I play a character who..." segments, interspersed with clips from the film). A featurette called "The Origin of Terror" seems like it could have something interesting to say about urban legends, except that it only runs four minutes, and after the first minute or so it turns into a promotional segment for The Ring, anyway. Last, we get trailers for The Ring and The Ring 2, and the "cursed videos" for The Ring, The Ring 2, and Ringu.
In short, these special features would be adequate at best even if they'd been included on the original release; they're certainly not worth double-dipping for.
The Ring is a polished, effectively creepy horror film that manages to blend together different conventional elements and shake them up in such a way as to have an original, fresh feel. It's best, though, not to think too closely about the plot, because there are some distinct holes that are quite apparent in retrospect; this is a film that's best watched just once, and not re-watched. Unless you're a complete fanatic about the film, the Collector's Edition is really not worth the extra money, as it's just the existing single-disc edition packaged together with an additional DVD that has almost nothing of interest. I'd certainly recommend against double-dipping. I'll give this Collector's Edition a "recommended" on the strength of the main feature, but if you already own the single-disc edition, just hang on to what you've got.