Few supernatural films have proven to be as unwittingly grounded in reality as The Ring. Released back when SARS was a particularly crappy Scrabble attempt and ”bird flu” something that Heckle gave to Jeckle, The Ring has aged into a rare kind of thriller, one with frights that not only hold up three years later, but are heightened, thanks to subsequent real-life events. With its virus-like villain (a mysterious tape that’s passed from one victim to the next) and the slow-build physical deterioration it causes (nosebleeds, hallucinations), Gore Verbinski’s box office hit now seems culturally clairvoyant in our disease-distressed times.
Alas, for a movie that made the best use of cathode-ray chaos since Poltergeist, the first digital edition of The Ring was bare-bones dull, with a half-hearted collection of bonus features that barely filled out 15 minutes, let alone seven days. While this reissue’s extras are mostly typical filler material, they do include the shockingly good stopgap short film Rings.
Co-written by Ehren Kruger (scribe of The Ring and this month’s Ring Two) and directed by Darkness Falls‘ Jonathan Liebesman, Rings is one of the first DVD-era marketing gimmicks to succeed as a work of art, bridging the two films nicely without interfering. Under 20 minutes long, it sets the Ring tape loose in a cliquey high school, one of the few environments where peer pressure can believably function as a murder motive. As scares go, it’s not as gasp-worthy as its feature-length forebear, but it does a better job of explaining how something so dreadful — a quick, known death — could become so desirable.