Director - F Javier Gutiérrez
Cast - Matilda Lutz, Alex Roe, Johnny Galecki, Vincent D’Onofrio
Rating - 1/5
Without wasting any time, let’s get one thing out of the way: Rings is hardly the horror sequel you, or anyone with even the most dubious taste in movies, had asked for. Honestly, for anyone who is familiar with how these things work, the fact that Rings turned out to be the worst horror movie in like, two weeks, shouldn’t come as a surprise. But to expect a very basic level of competency shouldn’t be too outlandish a notion, should it?
Turns out, it can. Not only does Rings utterly disrespect the fascinating lore established by its predecessors, and the Japanese source novels, it also raises an eyebrow in genuine surprise when you look around in disbelief at the sheer purposelessness of it all.
It’s strange, and dull and very, very unnecessary.
And to make matters worse, talking about it here is turning out to be an even bigger challenge than sitting through it was.
You could easily zone out during one of its many scenes of teenage angst and murky exposition. Every time Johnny Galecki’s college professor character behaves like he shouldn’t (which happens nearly as often as Hollywood dishes out needless horror sequels), you could simply ignore him and imagine instead, all the wonderful meals you could be having. The food court is right there, and every time someone opens the door to go to the loo (it’s beginning to seem like they’re looking for just about any excuse now), the smell of delicious nachos wafts in, and off you slip, into your imagination, away from all the jump scares and glitchy sound effects and evil Johnny Galeckis.
Alternatively, if you happen to be a movie person, it is likely that during several of the scenes that end with one (or both) of our teenage heroes inviting trouble, and then reacting as if they’ve been dealt some injustice, your mind diverts to better horror movies it remembers enjoying with you. Perhaps as a coping mechanism.
Luckily, only a few years ago, I remember being quite impressed by an indie film called It Follows, whose plot is sneakily similar to Rings’. While that movie was in many ways the best example of modern horror filmmaking, and a parable about HIV of all things, Rings, unfortunately, is at best about the importance of preserving vintage VHS players.
Without Johnny Galecki stumbling across one in a yard sale, and then deciding to watch the obviously shady tape already loaded in its deck (it’s the Samara video, you guys) this movie wouldn’t exist.
But now that he’s seen it, and has answered the whispered phone call informing him that he will die in seven days, he must pass on the curse to someone else. In one of the film’s few bright ideas, his professor decides to start an experiment of sorts, which involves his entire class watching the tape and then scrambling to find others to pass on the curse on to. Morality aside, it’s a uniquely bonkers idea that seems almost like a fluke in a film that has literally nothing else original to offer.
Since we’re all being honest here, now would be the perfect time to admit that both the first film in this series, The Ring (2002), and the original J-horror version (1998), scared the living daylights out of me. As a teenager, the idea of a cursed videotape taking the life of anyone who viewed it sounded like wicked fun. It also paved the way for other J-horror remakes, almost all of which were surprisingly good; films like The Grudge (2004) and Dark Water (2005).
But this one is a mess, from its bizarre structure (there are three beginnings and an ending, but no middle), to its frankly obnoxious overuse of the jump scare, it never really justifies its existence.
There are signs of a decent first draft in there somewhere, with a bunch of interesting ideas and surprising twists, but someone probably forced it to watch the Samara videotape, and then it died.