By Thomas Simpson
In 1998 Hideo Nakata unleashed the terrifying horror, Ring about a cursed videotape whose viewer will be killed seven days later by a vengeful spirit. A huge hit in its native Japan, Ring was remade for western audiences as The Ring.
Directed by Gore Verbinski, The Ring was a huge hit that sparked the trend for J-horror remakes in Hollywood. Nakata replaced Verbinski for The Ring 2, but the sequel lacked the psychological depth of its predecessors with an absurd script that included an unintentionally hilarious one liner at the film’s climax. Looking to cash in on the 3D market, The Ring 3D was announced in 2014 before the gimmick was dropped and retitled as Rings with F. Javier Gutiérrez attached to direct.
Set thirteen years after Verbinski’s The Ring, Rings looks to serve more as a reboot of the franchise as opposed to a sequel to round off the trilogy. We are introduced to a new set of characters including Julia (Matilda Lutz) and Holt (Alex Roe) as long distance lovers after the latter sets off to college. Johnny Galecki rounds off the main cast as Gabriel, Holt’s college professor, who after watching the tape looks to exploit it for his own curiosity and ego.
Rings opens with two prologues, including an over the top but fairly effective airplane scene that showcases the power of Samara (Bonnie Morgan) and results in an entertaining if not scary opening. The other sets up Gabriel’s path who we soon discover has set up a cult around the videotape having convinced students to watch it and pass on the curse before their time is up. This idea offers an original spin on the story which makes it all the more disappointing that it’s quickly dropped to make way for a rehash of the first movie.
The plot is uninspired, thrusting two mundane characters in Julia and Holts to the forefront. The performances of the two actors are pedestrian at best with both failing to attract any investment in their plight. Julia is cursed, she and Holt set out to break said curse. We’ve seen it all before and done better, after 13 years it would’ve been nice for a fresh take with the cult angle being explored.
Instead we’re presented with a mess of ideas that are thrown together without much coherence. Aside from the main “save Julia” plot, other threads are pulled on but offer nothing but a convoluted origin story that adds nothing to the latest entry or the franchise as a whole. Vincent D’Onofrio shows up at the midway point in a curious role but his performance isn’t enough to steer the script of its course.
Logic can easily be put to the side if it’s substituted by entertainment or in this case scares, yet Rings fails at both. Gutiérrez and DOP Sharone Meir offer some eerie visuals but it doesn’t create an atmosphere of dread and in turn, terror is substituted for jump scares that could be excused if they had the desired effect. Even the iconic image of Samara crawling from the TV is diluted, reducing one of cinema’s most infamous horror figures to mediocre CGI.
One for hardcore fans of the series or maybe those unfamiliar with the The Ring or the original Japanese film. If you fall into the latter category and want a good scare, check those out instead.
Thomas is a writer and filmmaker based in Glasgow, U.K. Find him on Twitter: @Simmy41.