Out of all the movies that were a part of the early 2000’s Asian horror remake boom, The Ring was the first and the best. A couple of cheesy moments aside it was a moody and effective ghost story which lingered for many viewers. An unimpressive sequel followed and now we have F. Javier Gutiérrez’s attempt at revitalising the series. Unfortunately it’s about as enjoyable as spending time at the bottom of a well.
Rings has trouble right out of the gate. The opening scene, in which a guy whose seven day count is up whilst he’s travelling on a plane, is utterly pointless. It has nothing to do with anything else that happens in the movie, and is just an odd case of spectacle for spectacle’s sake with the plane going out of control and the little seat TVs all showing the cursed video. It also doesn’t fit with the kind of story that The Ring is; an urban legend. It’s something that is shared between people, spreading like a stain, it doesn’t drop planes out of the sky. It’s a bad case of starting on the wrong, unintentionally funny, foot and then proceeds to go downhill from there.
There is the question of how do you keep the story of a murderous ghost who kills her victims via an outdated medium of technology going in this modern world? Why, hipsters of course! Specifically a group of college kids and their professor Gabriel (Johnny Galecki), who wishes to experiment on the tape and study its effects. This is how Julia (Matilda Lutz) gets involved. After her boyfriend Holt (Alex Roe) breaks all contact with her and discovers his involvement with the group, she ends up watching the video herself. All joking aside, this is possibly the most interesting part of the film as it does something different from what we’ve seen in the films previously. It even has shades of science fiction and is very in line with some of the places that Koji Suzuki’s original novels went later on. They also manage to bring in a video within the video, so that there can be some new freaky visuals and a way out of Julia simply copying the video and passing it on, as per the usual rules.
Unfortunately then it just turns into a rehash of the first movie with Julia and Holt trying to solve the mystery of the ghost Samara before Julia’s seven days are up, meeting the mysterious Burke (Vincent D’Onofrio), who may know more about Samara than he’s letting on, along the way. The problem with this is that everything they uncover is just a remix of backstory we’ve already been told in The Ring (2002) or The Ring Two (2005). At one point, a supposed massive revelation is discovered, I just sat there and shrugged like “yes, I know that, I saw the previous movie”, and another you’ll see coming if you’re so much as mildly paying attention in an earlier scene. It doesn’t even do all the retelling properly, getting the timeline of events in Samara’s history wrong. This might not seem like much, but it’s something else that’s indicative of the laziness throughout. Either I’m getting smarter or horror movies are getting dumber and I am not arrogant enough to think it’s the former.
Anyone who has seen the first movie will also know that solving Samara’s mystery doesn’t actually do any good. In the right movie this could be played as a kind of dramatic irony, but there’s nothing like that and so everything about their little quest feels pointless and goes through motions we're already aware of with little to no creativity or energy. Then it all goes a bit Don’t Breathe with Vincent D’Onofrio’s character, who is a more aggressive version of Brian Cox from the first movie and therefore, yet another remix. There are no surprises throughout this entire film right up until the ending, and especially when that ending is seen in almost its entirety in the trailer. It might seem strange to complain about things being repeated in a sequel to a film which is itself a remake, however The Ring at least had a distinct identity that was its own and separate from Hideo Nakata’s 1998 Ring. Both movies have a dark and moody atmosphere and of course share a lot of the structure, but The Ring really thought about how to transfer the story from the original setting rather than just doing a copy/paste job. Rings isn’t even trying.
It should be criminal for a horror movie to be so lacking in scares. Apart from a few cool looking glitches using the video, and the design of the video itself, it’s nothing but predictable and poorly played jump scares. There’re even a few that are just random with nothing to do with anything; random nightmare that causes Julia to fly out of bed with fear, I’m looking at you.
Rings is the worst kind of bad movie, because you’re not mad at the end of it, you’re just disappointed. A few nice visual flourishes aren’t enough to make up for an experience that is bland, isn’t scary, and doesn’t add anything to the series.