In the “The Ring” a cursed videotape—featuring a short movie that looks like it was made by a first year film student who had watched too many Luis Buñuel films—does the rounds, killing its audience seven days after viewing. Based on 1998’s “Ringu,” a masterpiece of atmosphere and psychological terror from Japanese director Hideo Nakata, it spawned a mini-empire with multiple movies, manga comics and television shows based on the original idea.
“Rings,” the latest addition to the continuing tale of the terrifying tape takes place thirteen years after the events of the last film. Julia’s (Matilda Lutz) boyfriend Holt (Alex Roe) has gone to college out of state. One night during a strange Skype call from his account a young woman appears. “Where is the dead man?” she shrieks. “Tell him she’s coming!” Unnerved, Julia hightails it to the school looking for answers. Seems Holt has become involved in a project to discover the meaning of the meaning of the videotape. The professor Gabriel (Johnny Galecki) thinks he can prove the tape is a doorway to the other side. If that’s true, it will also verify the existence of the soul and life after death. There’s one big problem though, his students keep dying seven days after viewing the tape. The only way out is to make a copy of the tape and pass it along to someone else. With only hours to go until Holt becomes the tape’s latest victim Julia watches, and inheriting his curse. “Whatever you were leave him alone!” she says. Instead of passing the death tape along she decides to get to the bottom of the mysterious tape and put an end to the evil forever. “No one is dying because of me,” she says.
That may protect the movie’s characters but the audience may die of boredom.
Can a horror movie that isn’t scary still be called a horror movie? “Rings” plays on primal fears of the unknown and darkness, but fails to actually make the hair on the back of your neck stand up. Some weird things happen—there is one cool image of Samara, the cursed girl, crawling out of a flatscreen TV to claim her victim—but it is mostly a collection of dimly lit scenes, loud sounds and jump scares.
More troubling than the bland leads or Vincent D’Onofrio reaching for a paycheque as the local blind man who may or may not have something to do with the supernatural goings on, is the movie’s complete lack of purpose.
Julia sets off to figure out why this videotape is a death sentence to anyone who sees it. Good idea for a movie. There is an investigation and she uncovers certain things but (THIS IS A MILD SPOILER) there is no explanation as to how or why Samara ended up on tape and how the tape was distributed. None. Things happen but they have little to nothing to do with the already established “Ring” mythology. It was as if the three—count ‘em three—screenwriters—including Academy Award winner Akiva Goldsman—lost interest in the story after the first hour. I know I certainly did.
“Rings” ends with the words “evil won’t stop.” It’s a set up to the inevitable sequel but in this case it sound more like a threat than the promise of more.