Samara is back, yet again, for another installment of the ‘Ring’ series.
Rings is the second sequel to the 2002 horror film The Ring, which is a remake of the 1998 Japanese horror film Ringu. The plot of “The Ring” involves a videotape that is possessed by by a ghost, Samara, who kills anyone who views the tape seven days later. The only way the viewer can escape death is to make a copy of the tape and show it to someone else, passing the death sentence along. As a result, many copies of the tape have been made, and Samara’s curse is spreading around like a virus. This was the setup for the sequel, The Ring Two, which failed to deliver any good thrills.
Now, twelve years later, we have another entry in the franchise. This film concerns a teenage couple, Julia and Holt, the latter being away at college. One night, Julia gets a message from a classmate that something has happened to Holt. Worried, Julia travels to Holt’s college and discovers that he is involved with a group of people who are searching for viewers they can pass their curse along to, and Holt is having trouble finding one. Fearing for Holt’s life, Julia voluntarily watches the video and ends up on Samara’s death list. However, after experiencing some unusual premonitions, Julia believes that there is a way to break the curse, and with the help of Holt, she looks to end Samara’s curse one and for all. The sooner she can get on that, the better.
What made the first film effective was that the premise was simple and well executed. Despite some questions remaining unanswered at the end, the plot was easy enough to follow, and director Gore Verbinski successfully conveyed an unsettling mood without having to rely on jump scares to engage the audience. These distinctions are nowhere to be found in this movie, which feels boring and uninterested in telling its own story. When it does come to jump scares, they are used mainly to keep the audience awake, because this movie would put anyone to sleep.
There is little connection to the previous films aside from the video and Samara herself, and it does not follow from the previous film’s ending. The Ring Two cheated many times with how Samara’s powers work, but it did at least have an ending. It is unclear how Samara would be able to return in this film, only that she just does. In addition, the presence of Naomi Watts is sorely missing in this film. Instead we have actors who look like they’d rather be somewhere else. Also, Johnny Galecki is hilariously unconvincing as a biology teacher. You would think that he would have learned a thing or two from all his years on The Big Bang Theory.
It is a shame, because the premise behind Rings is interesting enough. The problem is that there is no substantial drama or insight given to the plot or characters. For example, all of this terror came from a videotape, and videotapes are rarely see in 2017. The film could have commented on how easy it is to find videos like this on the Internet, and though it does tap into the idea, it is mostly overlooked.
This story was partially depicted in Jonathan Liebsman’s 2005 short, also titled, Rings. Not only did Liebsman properly depict the idea of a spreading curse with a sense of urgency, but also all of this was done within a fifteen-minute runtime. This Rings clocks in at almost two hours, and not only does it not convey its premise properly, but it does not even bother answering any of the questions posed by the previous films.
As far as sequels to The Ring are concerned, Rings is better than The Ring Two. Unfortunately, that is the only compliment it will receive from me. Aside from a few inspired visuals, the film has a glacial pace, the characters do not seem invested in the story, and it barely resembles the same universe of the franchise. If you want to see an effective horror film with spooky atmosphere and thrills, see The Ring, Ringu, or the 2005 short, Rings. As for this film, if you want to see a movie that will cure your insomnia, watch away! Just don’t expect a phone call!