It’s been 15 years since there was a “Ring” film anyone actually liked. The original American remake of The Ring took the horror world by storm and lead to a plethora of Asian horror flicks being remade for audiences who do not like to read subtitles. The Grudge, The Eye, One Missed Call, Dark Water all recieved American makeovers with very mixed results. The Ring though for my money stood out as the best of the bunch. It actually creeped me out on my first viewing. Ring Two (2005) was…well the less said about that film the better right? I actually haven’t even seen it in it’s entirety (but you can bet I watched and laughed at that deer scene). So fast forward to 2016 when Rings was announced, my reaction was essentially “Huh?” While the initial trailer and release delays didn’t do much to get me interested in Rings, I am glad it wasn’t the disaster I was expecting. I also have to say that it isn’t anywhere as great as one would want it to be either from a storytelling perspective. Lets get to it, shall we?
“A new chapter in the beloved RING horror franchise. (Julia) A young woman becomes worried about (Holt) her boyfriend when he explores a dark subculture surrounding a mysterious videotape said to kill the watcher seven days after he has viewed it. She sacrifices herself to save her boyfriend and in doing so makes a horrifying discovery: there is a “movie within the movie” that no one has ever seen before…”
That is the official synopsis. It is a bit misleading, as there isn’t as much a dark subculture as an ongoing experiment revolving around the famous video tape from The Ring initiated by Holt’s Professor played by Johnny Galecki (Big Bang Theory). This is actually a really cool setup and something different. An entire workspace and lab of sorts dedicated to studying the tape and how it works. I wanted to see more of this, and thought this was where the movie was going to go. Through the research they find out about the loophole of making a copy of the tape and passing it on to save someones life dubbing the following watchers “tails”. It felt as if the film would tread new ground that I didn’t expect and I was into it. Unfortunately it only lasts for so long, after Julia willingly watches the tape, she begins having strange visions of the aforementioned “movie within the movie”. This ends up bringing this new angle to a close and then Rings turns into more of a mystery thriller that I generally have grown a bit tired of. You know the kind, Something is haunting someone, so girl or guy team up with their significant other to go on a road trip to old town to find out the truth. We have seen it before and we have seen it handled with more energy and creepiness than here. Instead of delving into the “supernatural science” (for lack of a better term) and exploring a new perspective where someone actually decides to truly tackle and solve the horror by research and experimentation, we go back to this quest for the truth by asking the locals who don’t want to be bothered. The film suffers because of it.
Acting in the film is up and down, Galecki is decent here and there is also an Aimee Teegarden sighting as well for a brief period in the beginning of the film. We also get the usual fun turn by Vincent D’Onofrio just when the film is hitting a bit of a lull to inject some more life into it which helps. I usually like the fact they went with relative unknowns for the leads, but the characters are too thin for these particular lead actors, attractive as they may be to do anything of substance with. Perhaps character actors might have elevated the material a bit more. That actually is a perfect analogy for the film, it looks great, but the story does nothing to service it’s good looks. Another issue the film has, probably it’s biggest is that as a horror film, it falters, it never maximizes it’s potential, the few set pieces found within are well orchestrated, but the film for the most part lacks tension or dread and the score may as well be non existent as I don’t remember any of it at all. A great score can take a film to new heights and something a bit more ear catching or unique would have helped matters here.
With all that being said, I personally did not dislike the film, I just didn’t really like it. It could have easily turned out to be a total mess and as such, it is a serviceable watch, particularly for not too critical horror fans and Samara fans. It gets a bit dull at times for sure, as the story they chose to tell here is just not that compelling, but the direction and nice looking visuals certainly helped keep my interest through it all. I definitely think though it could have benefited from a more elaborate “final battle” so to speak, something grander at least. There is some imagery seen in the new “movie within a movie” that kind of gets wasted and had a great deal of promise for some extremely creepy stuff that never materializes. In the end, I was glad Rings was not the train wreck I anticipated (for comparison I absolutely disliked nearly everything about The Bye Bye Man and will never watch that again) I don’t have a strong desire to watch it again soon, but I was never at any point regretting watching it or hoping it would end already. I walked out of Rings thinking it was “OK”.and I think for horror in February to a sequel 12 years after the last one, it was serviceable. So take that as you will.