Rings movie review: This disappointing sequel neither entertains nor scares
A lot of things changed in 2002 when the American remake of The Ring came out in theaters.
The horror genre was suddenly no longer one that was identified with cheap thrills and tiny budgets, but a genuine mainstream, classily shot, solid big budget entertainment. The final shot of a girl walking out of the TV became iconic, and Japanese style horror experienced a massive boom.
It’s been fifteen years and a lot has changed – unfortunately the filmmakers of Rings refuse to believe so. This is a disappointingly antiquated sequel that neither entertains nor scares.
Rings picks up in the present day when a two people aboard a plane meet and discover they’d both watched Samara’s cursed videotape. A girl named Julia (Matilda Lutz) is looking for her missing boyfriend Holt (Alex Roe) and discovers some weird segment of college students watching and passing on the tape for fun. She eventually ends up watching the tape, and like the protagonist of the original film goes on a quest to find out its origins and save herself.
The problem is nothing in the story-line of Rings is remotely new or interesting.
Packed with a ton of clichés, the film lazily moves ahead with no real sense of ingenuity or purpose. There’s little chance that people watching this movie would not have seen the original film so getting more of the same, in much more inferior-ly assembled manner is tiring. Moreover, the mythology of Samara and the cursed tape was already well established in the first two films, so it feels like a cheat when this film deviates into a convoluted revenge saga that makes no sense.
Ultimately this is yet another horror movie where a spirit comes back to take revenge – a trope that is best suited in modern times in a more comedic or satirical story than a serious one.
The other big problem is how the film completely fails to be scary. The atmosphere in both the Japanese and the American remake was hair-raising from start to end. There was persistently a feeling of something otherworldly in the air, particularly in the Japanese version – so the final TV twist came off as a hugely memorable payoff. Adapting that twist to modern times in the world of smartphone and TVs makes it not very scary.
There’s far more frightening things in the real world nowadays than a girl coming out of a TV screen. Those who’ve seen the Scary Movie franchise which parodied The Ring — and there are a lot of these — will find themselves chuckling in their seats. There’s just nothing scary about a high definition screen as opposed to grainy footage on a crummy videotape.
Contrast this to a small film like Unfriended which on paper is quite ridiculous (a ghost who attacks you through Facebook), but it works pretty well because the filmmakers made it just engaging enough to keep you entertained. It was also a new way to scare people – Rings needed that new original filmmaking voice to catch up with modern horror, and it sucks that it doesn’t.
The only interesting aspect of the film is Vincent D’Onofrio who is delightfully unhinged as a blind priest with strange motivations – someone needs to cast this guy as the Ultimate Monster in a horror movie and watch the sparks fly.