When Julia doesn’t hear from her boyfriend for several days, she decides to visit his college to see him herself. She discovers that he’s joined a group surrounding a supposedly cursed video tape that kills you in seven days.
Rings is a sequel to The Ring (2002) and The Ring Two (2005), which are American remakes of the Japanese Ringu series. The first film was directed pretty wonderfully by Gore Verbinski, and the second film was directed by Hideo Nakata (the director of the Japanese original). Both of the first two films starred Naomi Watts.
I will begin by saying that I’m a pretty big fan of both the American remakes and the Japanese originals. They all have a pretty great pacing and atmosphere that sells the story. You can feel the suffering that these characters are supposedly feeling, and it promotes a lingering feeling of dread and despair that just pulls everything together. Plus, the theme music in the American remakes is hauntingly beautiful. Thank you very much, Hans Zimmer.
The idea of making a third film in the American franchise has been on the table for over 10 years. It’s been in a production labyrinth, facing setback after setback. I never thought it was going to be released. When I heard that, finally, Rings was going to be released in February 2017 (after once again being pushed back from October 2016), I was excited and skeptical.
Rings is directed by F. Javier Gutiérrez, a moderately unknown director in American film at the moment. It stars Alex Roe (The 5th Wave), Matilda Lutz (L’estate Addosso), and Johnny Galecki (The Big Bang Theory). It also features prominent roles by Aimee Teegarden (Friday Night Lights) and Vincent D’Onofrio (The Magnificent Seven).
The first thing that I will say about Rings is that it doesn’t feel like a Ring movie. The tone isn’t right. The atmosphere and pacing isn’t right. It just feels like a modern horror movie that just so happens to have the cursed video tape in it.
There are moments where the visual effects are a total miss. When it comes to Samara actually exiting a television set and being in the physical world, I have no idea what they were trying to do. The effects from the 2002 film were far more effective, in my opinion. Other aspects were really cool, such as a fly escaping from a lit cigarette, the video being super imposed on windows, and more. There were just several moments when I could do nothing but shake my head. Sometimes less is more.
Rings does have some moments where you can see how desperately it’s trying to revitalize the Ring franchise, but ultimately, it falls flat. It doesn’t really venture into any new territory. Some of the plot points have already been explored in previous films so they didn’t garner much surprise from me. The attempts to bring the cursed video tape into a more modern world didn’t come across as well as I would have hoped either. I know the Japanese icon has made her way into a digital format with moderate success, so I’m definitely disappointed that the American attempt doesn’t have the same effect.
Another aspect that Rings has going against it is a muddled story overall. Rings attempts to explain more of the backstory of Samara and the purpose of the cursed video tape, despite the fact that I think it was adequately covered in previous films. Going back and trying to answer even more unnecessary questions just creates more opportunities for flawed logic and plot holes. Again, like I mentioned previously, sometimes less is more.
I was really expecting a lot from Rings, and it was nowhere near what I was hoping to see. The performances aren’t bad. I think if the story had more going for it, the actors would have been able to sell it. The addition of Vincent D’Onofrio’s character was a nice touch. He always brings something interesting to the projects he’s a part of.
Overall though, Rings is pretty disappointing. I would highly recommend The Ring (2002) and even The Ring Two (2005) over this film any day. They were much more satisfying on multiple levels. I’m always one to recommend foreign films, so if you’re interested in seeing the Japanese original, I would recommend that as well.