It’s been over 12 years since the world last had to deal with the threat of Samara and her cursed video. And while her legacy seemed to grow and continue in Japan, she was seemingly all but forgotten here in the states. But now Samara is back with a vengeance, but will she receive a warm welcome or a cold one?
In “Rings” a college professor named Gabriel (Johnny Galecki) finds an old VCR that contains the infamous videotape which causes people to die 7 days after they’ve watched it. Infatuated by the mysteries held within the tape, the professor starts a club where he recruits college students to watch the tape so he can further his studies. When the experiment starts to go off the rails a new recruit named Holt (Alex Roe) and his girlfriend Julia (Matilda Lutz) are forced to uncover the true nature of the tape.
On paper the plot to “Rings” has a lot of promise. The whole idea behind a professor running a club where people watch the tape is deeply fascinating. He creates a fraternity/cult around the idea of watching the tape and sells people on the idea that it potentially holds the key to life beyond death. He even sets up a clever system where people view the tape and then have a “tail” who view a copy of the tape before the end of the seven days thus breaking the curse. It would, of course, be an insane never ending cycle but that is a really cool concept that I would’ve loved to have seen explored further. However, the film quickly abandons this plot to follow the adventures of Holt and Julia which turns out to be a terrible idea.
The first problem is that the mystery that Holt and Julia are uncovering isn’t all that interesting. The film moves at a snail’s pace as it pulls back thin layers of plot to uncover a few twists that you can start to see long before they’re revealed. And there’s no slowly escalating terror in this film, things just sort of plod along without any sort of tension. It’s the first time in a long time that I was in danger of falling asleep during a horror movie.
The other problem with centering the movie on Holt and Julia is that they’re completely uninteresting characters. All you need to know about them is that they’re high school lovebirds moving on to college who would gladly sacrifice themselves for each other cause they love each other so much. It’s like someone took characters from a really dull Nicholas Sparks knock-off, not even the genuine one, and stuck them in a horror movie.
Holt fails to be a charming or even endearing boyfriend as he only seems to exist to look handsome. There’s one scene where he sits next to a older woman eating a chicken fried steak and he attempts to break the ice with her by asking “So what is it? Chicken or steak?” What kind of lame question is that? That’s painful even by normal corny standards.
Julia, on the other hand suffers from incredibly wooden acting. There’s no emotion or urgency in anything she says. Every line is delivered in a flat monotone way that sounds like a character from a Playstation one “Resident Evil” game. Although I recently learned that the actress that played her is from another country and this is one of her first English films. So I feel a little bad for calling out her performance, but it is extremely rough and makes an already dull film even harder to pay attention too.
Thankfully actors like Johnny Galecki and Vincent D’Onofrio, who plays a blind guy, show up every now and then to liven things up with their performances, but they weren’t in the film nearly enough to help keep it afloat.
If you’re a fan of the first “Ring” and possibly “Ring 2” you might be thinking that there surely must be scares in this film. The scariest thing that happens in “Rings” is a cheap jump scare where someone opens an umbrella. And there’s another scene with a dog. But the umbrella and the dog both got the same reaction from my audience and it was the only time there was a reaction.
Even the ending of the film will leave you unsatisfied as it feels entirely unearned and seems to ignore plot elements of “Ring 2.” It tries to end on a big note, but everything about the film has been so limp before that that it has little to no impact. And it’s execution is so corny that it could have been ripped straight out of a SyFy made-for-television film.
The only thing that “Rings” left me feeling is frustration. Somewhere in this film there was a good idea. An intriguing story could have been sculpted out of the rough marble, but somewhere along the way someone hit the wrong spot and the whole thing just came tumbling down. I certainly hope that the “Ring” series doesn’t end on this note, but I have no idea where it goes from here. Even if you’re a diehard fan of the films I recommend you just go rewatch the first one.