The Ring burst onto the scene 15 years ago and changed the face of modern horror. PG13 horror became the “it” thing for better or worse. Since then we’ve had on onslaught of sub-R spook shows grace the cinemas. Rings brings the tale of Samara back to the big screen, and the big question is whether or not the J-horror import still stands as a relevant boogey-person after all these year?
The answer is…kind of. It would seem the tale of a cursed video tape would be perfect in this age of social media. The idea that something as mundane as a YouTube clip could signal your impending doom is ripe territory for a horror film. Unfortunately, I can’t say that Rings exploits that concept very well. I’ll complement the ad campaign for giving no clear idea as to what exactly Rings is about. The trailers didn’t do a good job of making the film look good, either, but they at least kept some mystery to the proceedings. Ultimately we have an expanded look at the idea of a “Ring cult”(check the short film attached to The Ring Two) where people are watching the video for the good of “science” only to safely pass it on to someone else before their 7 days are up.
This is a great plot device to reintroduce us to the world of The Ring. Only we don’t travel too far down this line of thinking before the main thrust of the story takes effect. It becomes another mystery where our leads race against time (I suppose, they didn’t seem to be in too much of a hurry) to uncover some integral part of Samara’s backstory in order to stop the curse. In other words, it’s business as usual.
I’d love to scream “studio interference!” I’d love to say an amazing sequel was railroaded by too many cooks in the kitchen, and perhaps that is the case. However, everything on display moves from a logical “A” to “B” to “Z”. It doesn’t feel chopped/re-cut to death. A matter of fact, director F. Javier Gutierrez stages moments that toe that delightful line between gruesome and gorgeous. The cinematography playfully begins with bright, sunny pinks before devolving into the rainy blue we’re used to in a Ring film. Scares on the other hand are not his strong suit.
There are two moments that serve to elicit the heebie jeebies and both have been spoiled by the trailer. The first, with Samara crawling out of the television thrown to the floor, shows promise for what the film could have delivered. The second is the final moments that tease what could be an epic follow up. I won’t reveal more about the plot than I already have as it does go in a direction I wasn’t expecting and ultimately serves to answer a question longtime fans of The Ring/Ringu have longed for.
In terms of technical stats, this is a solid work. It’s reported 33 million dollar budget seems a tad absurd as I’m not sure where all the money went, but it’s a slick production. I wish more horror films were made within this modestly-budgeted range. The lead, Matilida Lutz, is a decent enough heroine, though her performance is terribly inconsistent. Oftentimes it sounds as if she’s reading straight from a cue-card. I’d like to think horrid ADR is to blame. Other times, she is spot on. Her hunky boyfriend, Alex Roe, does a great job of…well, being hunky.
After a 12 year wait, Rings is a better film than The Ring Two, but not by much. Where Two was a convoluted mess of ineffective scares, Rings is a slightly coherent mess of tepid scares. I was never bored, but I was never really frightened or even slightly unnerved. Rings focuses more on the plot and mystery and seems less interested in the mood that these films typically excel at.
Rings does end on a high note, though. The final moments open the doors to a potential sequel that could really bring The Ring into modern times in a way that makes Samara relevant again. It’s just a shame this entry takes so long to get there. Rings is far from the complete train wreck we may have expected after so many delays, but it’s not going to bring Samara’s brand of nightmares to the digital age as it should have, either.