I was 17 years old when I first saw The Ring back in 2002. I loved it so much I contributed to its $249 million gross – a phenomenal achievement for a horror film – by taking three different groups of friends to the theatre on three different occasions. To this day, it’s still one of the scariest movies I’ve ever seen. The Ring is the movie that made me fall in love with the horror genre. I was even pumped for the sequel, especially because Hideo Nakata, the director of the Japanese original 1998 Ringu, was being brought in to helm it. Sadly, The Ring Two was an unmitigated disaster, and where The Ring began the J-Horror remake craze, The Ring Two ended it just as quickly.
So here we are 12 years after the release of The Ring Two. Rings is the third film in the series, a soft reboot that continues the mythology with a new cast of characters. And you would think that length of time would allow the filmmakers to refine the film, explore new concepts, edit it right, and give us that third chapter that would wow fans of the original as well as scare a new generation of teens eager for the next big horror franchise.
Rings is every bit the disaster that its predecessor was. It is a clash of bad writing, amateur hour performances, cheap jump scares, murky atmosphere, and filler. It amazes me how so many people are being paid to produce something so incompetent, so bogged down by poor collaboration and a collective inability to tell a coherent story. It’s as if the studio just wanted to make a quick dollar, so they dug up a brand name, shot some random scenes, and slapped the name onto the film so it would dupe the existing fans into buying a ticket.
By releasing the horrifyingly dumb first three minutes of the movie online, Paramount is actually doing you a favour. Watch those three minutes and then stay far away from the cinema screen that this turd is playing in. These three minutes, set on a plane about to land, project exactly what the other 90 will be. The horrid acting of the three leads in this scene passes down to the leads of the actual film. The reason that someone would be watching a VHS in a digital You Tube age is never explained. The editing that comes straight out of a high school student film doesn’t get better after this scene. And how Samara is able to crawl out of the screen in the plane’s cockpit and simultaneously crash the plane just to kill the only two people who watched the video in a plane full of crowded innocent people (so if you’re close to someone who watched the tape, do you die too as collateral damage?) is never explained.
The plot, if it can be called that, revolves around Julia (Matilda Lutz) who goes to visit her boyfriend Holt (Alex Roe) in college. She finds Holt caught up in a secret society of students lead by Professor Leonard Hofstadter – sorry, I mean Professor Gabriel (Johnny Galecki). Professor Gabriel stumbled upon the tape, watched it, and decided to show it to other students, hereby letting the cycle live on as he finds others to watch the video to keep the students who already saw the video from dying. He does this so he can do experiments on the tape and see if it can provide answers to the afterlife. How he was aware that this tape would kill him unless he made a copy and showed it to someone else is never explained. And yes, this is the plot that took these writers 12 years to come up with. Talk about not knowing when a franchise is out of ideas.
Screenwriters Jacon Estes, David Loucka, and Akiva Goldsman (how does this guy keep getting work?) essentially rehash similar beats of the original movie. Julia and Holt embark on a journey to discover the origins of Samara Morgan (Bonnie Morgan). These events were thoroughly explained in the first film, but Rings has to still bring up new things about her origin, bring in new parents, and raise more unanswered questions. The biggest question I have for these screenwriters is this: why does every character wait until 5 minutes before they’re about to die before they start trying to find someone to watch the tape? Like you kids had a whole week to do this? Is this movie supposed to be a metaphor for teens procrastinating for their exams?
Director F. Javier Gutierez (Before the Fall) gives the film a passable look. He’s able to get the director of photography to frame shots. He knows how to tell the editor how to cut from shot to reverse shot. What he can’t manage to helm is a sense of urgency or sense of dread. These kids are about to die and no one seems to genuinely care; they’re too bogged down in petty relationship issues and subplots that go nowhere. He also relies on only one scare: Samara crawling out of the TV. Really? We’ve been seeing this image for over 19 years now. It’s been parodied by the Wayans Brothers. You need to figure out new things to do with this ghost there, Mr. Gutierez. Oh, and lay off the jump scares.
Seriously, there were a pack of kids in the seats behind us. They were clearly the target demographic of this movie, and even they were laughing at it; they weren’t even jumping at the jump scares. To further emphasize this, the film’s final scene slowly starts to reveal a word that has been carved into Julia’s hand in braille. The entire theatre was chanting the full word long before the movie decided to reveal it to us. In other words, these filmmakers clearly have contempt for this demographic as they assume everyone is as dumb as their screenplay is.
There’s no point in mentioning the performances here. They’re all bad. Even Vincent D’Onofrio is wasted in his extended cameo. There’s no point in mentioning how Rings completely wastes the opportunity to bring Samara’s video into the digital age and explore what could happen if this film were uploaded online or sent to someone as a snap. Everyone has ample access to VHS players and land lines. The only technological update this film has is….. wait for it…. Quicktime files!
Anyways, I think you get my point. Rings is an absurdly poor and utterly abysmal attempt to attract the next generation to this franchise. I should note that this film was set to be released in November of 2015 and was delayed no less than four times until now where it’s being dumped into theatres without any pre-screeners. The studio should have just dumped it into the garbage fire where it belongs, but I guess they need to salvage whatever money they wasted on this laughable excuse for a reboot.