Review Rating: 7 out of 10
While I know perfectly well that it was the Japanese Ringu movies that started this whole phenomenon and what the Americanized versions are based on, for the purposes of this movie review we’re just sticking to the Americanized Rings film series. Gore Verbinski directed the first The Ring movie, and did his level best to keep the creepy movie about a video that kills you seven days after you watch it as a murder mystery with horror overtones. This new modern jaunt into the Rings world is a throwback to that murder mystery feel, and I think it’s wonderful.
So what do we recall from the original movie? There’s this video tape of a rather raw film full of disturbing images, and after you watch it you get a phone call informing you that you now have seven days to live. Why seven days? Because the misunderstood maven Samara was tossed into a well by her malfunctioning adopted mother, and down in a well you won’t dehydrate, but in approximately seven days, you willstarve to death. Samara the ghost doesn’t believe in things like mercy or pity, and indeed, even after her bones are found and put in the process of being laid to rest, she’s still off on her inexorable mission, to kill in the most horrifying way those who saw her message but didn’t share it. The curse is, after all, like the well itself, a ring.
A whole bunch of other stuff happens in the first two Rings movies, but this current-day counterpart focuses on two main things: the ever-widening ring of Samara’s righteous revenge, and her actual parentage, where this evil all began. And after an admittedly awesome scene on a plane, where Samara (Bonnie Morgan) proves that all she needs is a screen to get to her latest victim, we begin at the start of a different life, with Holt (Alex Roe) preparing to leave his girlfriend Julia (Matilda Lutz) for college.
Spoilers bubble up from the drains!
Okay so, college these days seems a bit different than it did in my day, at least more permissive and underground or something. Because apparently there’s this science Professor Holt was enamored with, who himself has this super secret club where he introduces various students to Samara’s cursed video and ring, all in the name of scientific experimentation of course. … Alright, I’ll buy it. I wouldn’t expect a science Professor (Johnny Galecki) to be doing paranormal studies in quite such a fashion, but hey, more power to him. Except now, the “tail” (what Professor Gabriel calls the seven day waiting period where Samara’s ghost hunts you down) has Holt in its clutches and he missed the next human sacrifice sent by the Professor, so Julie takes it upon herself to watch the video and save Holt.
But then, shit gets extra weirder when the Prof discovers two whole minutes of extra footage on Julie’s copy of the Ring video, and here finally is where we launch into the real greatness of the film, the murder mystery of Samara’s dubious parentage.
In theory, the only way to actually stop Samara’s ring once and for all is to destroy her remains by fire, which is relatively simple and straightforward. Right? Except it never really is. Samara’s remains were taken from the town with the well where she died to some other town called Sacrament Falls, where inevitably a disastrous flood killed a whole bunch of residents soon after. The former church has been made over into an addicts recovery meeting hall, if for no other reason than the former priest doesn’t work there anymore. The town still carries a whole bunch of secrets very close to their collective chests, though the blind man Burke (Vincent D’Onofrio), even plagued by out-of-hibernating cicadas, seems uncommonly pleased to deal with Holt and Julie, Julie especially. And why should that be? Because, if Holt and Julie are so determined to root out the circumstances of Samara’s birth and finally lay her ghost to rest for really-reals, well, there needs to be a replacement to fill the void. Oooh, foreshadowing.
(I want to state for the record without totally spoiling it that I have always loved Vincent D’Onofrio in whatever he’s in, and his character in Rings is absolutely no exception.)
The idea that the ring curse is a mantle that can be handed off to another person is a very J-Horror story trope and I personally am fine with it, however. Throughout the movie, Julie is rather wooden and while, yes, there are a few scenes here and there where she actually emotes and states she can feel Samara’s pain, or jumps and screams, for the most part Julie has done diddly to deserve being the next monster ghost that crawls out of the screen to get you. Overcoming your own fears doesn’t necessarily make you the right person for spreading those fears, or even righteous wrath, onto others. Holt too, for that matter, is a very blocky standard boyfriend-type character, the one who swears up and down he’ll protect his little girlfriend when in reality, he’s the one who got her into this mess in the first place.
Many questions are answered in this installment of Rings, including some of the original segments of the cursed video that were never explained – until now, if you pay attention. Having a third film that is both prequel story and modern sequel continuation in the same movie isn’t impossible, but it doesn’t leave a lot of room for innovation. More or less the same lighting and atmosphere is good, I think, but so many attempts at getting the same jump scares that made the original movie The Ring infamous is a little sad. Of course, with all this modern technology we the audience may just be jaded as hell at this point, and I’m betting that’s why Rings felt the need to prove at the very beginning of the film that Samara and her ghostly vengeful legacy, really can come get you anywhere, today, tomorrow and forever.
Many thanks to the Horrible Imaginings crew for the preview screening of Rings, out in theaters now! And dive into the well of terror on Amazon Prime Video now!