"The Ring" was a horror movie that I have always been fascinated by.
Honestly, its a time in my life of movies that I won't forget. I remember the October in 2002 when the movie came out, and the word-of-mouth at my middle school was on high as more and more of my peers were seeing it. I even had a friend who told me over the phone, "don't watch it at night, don't watch it in the dark, don't watch it alone." On this rare occurrence, I was not ahead of the curve. Yes, I have to admit, I never saw "The Ring" in a theater that October. I can't really remember why, but other obligations were keeping me out of the theater that month. I tried and I tried, but my adolescent schedule never added up. I caught up on it on my spring break that same school year, when my mom came in from the mailbox and saying we had new Netflix movies come in. Sure enough, one of those movies was "The Ring."
Since it was spring break and as a sixth grader I didn't have much to do, I picked an afternoon to watch it. Rabid to see if this horror film could live up to the hype that literally everybody in my world was telling me it was on. Both of my parents were at work, and I was all alone. I suddenly remembered what that friend told me. "don't watch it at night, don't watch it in the dark, don't watch it alone." Those words echoed in my brain over and over again. I figured, it was in the middle of the day, the windows were wide open on a sun-shiny day. Certainly two of the rules could cancel the other one out right? I watched "The Ring" alone that afternoon, and while it did scare me, I was completely absorbed by the movie. I loved that it was full of mood and atmosphere, had strong lead characters, and it mainly, it just didn't feel like a horror movie a mainstream Hollywood studio would release. It felt like the beginning of a horror revolution. I watched it again with my dad that night, and I caught even more the second time around, for the first time in a long time, I had a contact-high of a buzz on a horror movie.
And I also didn't sleep that night. At all. And not because of excitement. Because every time I turned off the lights in my bedroom, I saw Samara's mom turning around to stare at me. The creepiest part of the cursed videotape in my opinion.
When "The Ring 2" hit, I was a freshman in high school. It got released in theaters on my birthday, and I invited a whole mess of friends to see it. We all left the theater sad, deflated. Every good grace note the first film created, this sequel took away. And coming from the director who made the original Japanese film "The Ring" was based on, that was doubly disappointing. But I still had "The Ring," and I still enjoy it to this day.
We now arrive to "Rings," a sudden revival of the "Ring" franchise. Sadly, this sequel has lots more in common with "The Ring 2" than it does "The Ring." Except its a thousand times worst. At the very least, "The Ring 2" tried to create a mood of its own. Watching "Rings," I couldn't help but notice that I was watching just another, standard Hollywood horror movie. Instead of a strong-willed lead like Naomi Watts played in the first two films, Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz plays Julia. A beautiful millennial whose first appearance in the film begins with a butt-shot. Because of course it does. Mood and atmosphere is taken away and we are given several boo scares as a substitute. Young actors run around everywhere screaming, determined to prove to the world that they are bad actors. Oh, and there is also a brand new videotape in this movie. What made the videotape in the first film so creepy was how it was made, it was all so simple that it was nerve-racking. This new film is literally filled with special effects. Bad special effects that look fake.
The worst sins "Rings" commits though, is it takes good ideas and totally squanders them. The movie opens with a nervous Red Shirt who is talking about the videotape to a woman he's sitting next to on a plane. That's something I have always wondered about the cursed tape. How does Samara kill you if you are on a plane? In a car in the middle of nowhere? In a desert? These are all good questions I have debated before. Well, we find how Samara gets to you even when you are up in the air. Its so profoundly stupid that I wish I never found out. An unscary score pounds itself into your ears all movie long, completely drowning out any and all scares that could have had an affect on you.
The rest of the film is literally built on the spine of the first film. There is a girl who finds someone close to her in peril because of the tape. She watches the tape. Her timeline to death begins. She investigates the tape, trying to find out what the images mean. There is a creepy father figure with a terrible secret who dies in a dumb way. There is a person who watches Samara come out of their TV then dies in a chair, like Martin Hendersen did. Honestly, even some of the dialogue is the exact same from the first film. And when you think its over, it really isn't. By the time the movie ended, I really couldn't figure out what the point of even making the film was. Its clear that they had some different ideas. There is a moment in the film where we find an underground group who helps people who have watched the tape, by finding them people to show the tape to. That's an interesting idea, and could have set up a morally confounding storyline, but "Rings" keeps bringing everything back to remaking the first film. I also like that the film tries to expand the mythology of Samara and if they kept down that trail, maybe the film would have worked. But they keeping walking on the remake tightrope and I left feeling numb that I wasted time on this.
And the ending...oh my God, is it howlingly dumb.
But hey, the guy from "The Big Bang Theory" is in it!
If you were a fan of the first film, I think its safe to say that its sequels are horrid trash. Most great horror films are standalone films. There are very few horror franchises that are actually good. Too many great first horror films that were followed by terrible sequels. Perhaps that is what horror should aim for, make one undoubtedly effective movie, then leave it alone for good. That's a world that I hope to live in one day, and something the people behind "Rings" have completely forgot.
FINAL GRADE: D-