Watch Steve's supplemental video review at the bottom of the article
Let's get some clarification out of the way. Rings is a sequel to the American franchise known as The Ring, which started back in 2002 with Naomi Watts. The film was followed up with a sequel in 2006, appropriately called The Ring Two, and since then, the franchise has laid dormant. The Ringwas a remake of a 1998 Japanese film called Ring, which was based off Koji Suzuki's novel Ring from 1991.
Now that that's out of the way, we can proceed to evaluating Rings on its own terms. When it comes to resurrecting old franchises that most of the general public has either resorted to seeing be parodied on Saturday Night Live or laughing at themselves in the present for even being remotely scared by the original films in the first place, The Ring easily fits the bill in both respects. One wonders if this particular sequel was part of a one-two punch plan by Paramount Pictures, along with Blair Witch, in hopes to get a new breed of millennial-driven horror franchises going resurrected off of the remnants of their predecessors. If that's Rings' intention, it could certainly do worse.
This, much like this year's The Bye Bye Man, is a mostly competent film, of course hindered by the cloying problems that have plagued the horror genre for years, but still doing the admirable task of making a horror film that takes its premise seriously enough to develop it. Where most horror films would leave us in the dark, Rings turns on a light.
F. Javier Gutiérrez
Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz, Alex Roe, Johnny Galecki
3 February 2017
Steve's Grade: C+
The film technically has two opening scenes, one on a plane where a passenger is trying to survive the final five minutes of the day he's allegedly supposed to die, and the other showing a professor named Gabriel (Johnny Galecki) finding an old VHS player only to repair it and watch the fabled videotape and receive the accompanying phone-call claiming he'll die in seven days. From there on out, we follow Julia (Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz), whose boyfriend Holt (Alex Roe) becomes involved in Gabriel's "experiment" to witness a real-life soul. This experiment involves him and several others watching the videotape, then getting a "tail," somebody to show the videotape to in order to make sure they themselves do not die in seven days. The entire thing prompts an It Follows-like chain of passing a death-wish onto somebody.
The deeper the couple dig to try and discern the history of Samara Morgan, the black-haired enigma present in the videotape, when Julia begins to realize that her version of the videotape is drastically different. She sees clips and images in her tape that pertain to her life over others, and as her and Holt begin to crack the case, start revealing deeper secrets about this phenomenon.
Rings suffers from the presence of faceless characters. Despite all the time we spend with Julia and Holt, and all the mysteries we work to solve, we known stunningly little about them by the time the credits roll. It's almost become a non-issue for the horror genre at this point; these characters are vessels to move the plot along. It doesn't matter how significant Julia might be, she's essentially as stunted as any character could be both dramatically and contextually.
Then there's the odd crossroads at with nostalgia and advancement intersect and form a cloudy aura of past and present. Consider Blair Witch once again and how that film at least committed to being a movie that was set in the modern day and essentially modernized the concept of the Blair Witch concept, albeit not being very successful. From the presence of the lethal video existing on a VHS tape, then an iPhone, then a computer during a Skype session, then having the ability to email itself to multiple individuals effectively muddies the water in which Rings exists. It finds itself being a strange hybrid of contemporary conventions sprinkled with nostalgic undertones as if it's too scared too commit to an era.
And yet, I will still go as far as to praise Rings for trying to offer a new storyline and direction as opposed to clinging to what sticks. Both of the previous American Ring films relied heavily on jumpscares, but, particularly the sequel, were slow on narrative progression and giving insight into what exactly was haunting these characters. Rings makes more than a half-hearted attempt to try and elaborate on the history of Samara, as well as show how Julia and Holt attempt to find parallels with their lives in conjunction with Samara's.
Some of the film works, some of it doesn't, even if the conclusion inspires a few chuckles given how predictable but exciting it is. Rings turns the tables on us in that we realize that instead of coming for the jolts and staying for their justifications, we've stayed for the explanation and have essentially found the jumpscares as integrated elements that are practically necessary to the storyline. It's all strange, just like the fact that people will still pay for a Ring movie in 2017.