Scary, but for all the wrong reasons.
I’m a sucker for a horror film that manages to make technology terrifying. With it surrounding all around us, the right director can make an incredibly good movie out of this year. It’s why I’m such a big fan of Unfriended, a movie that uses Skype to create a very tense and chilling atmosphere. One of the films that was a predecessor to this sort of tech horror was Ring, both the Japanese original and the more well-known on these shores, the Gore Verbinski remake. But with the only terrifying thing about VHS being the idea it might make a comeback like vinyl records, an update is actually a good idea. But can Rings pull it off?
The mythical VHS tape with Samara on it, which if watched curses the viewer to die in seven days unless they copy the tape and pass it on to someone else, starts to re-emerge in a US college. In it’s re-emergence, Julia (Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz, Summertime) watches the tape in order to save her boyfriend Holt (Alex Roe, The 5th Wave). But she discovers that her tape cannot be copied and that she must discover more about Samara in order to save her life.
And you may guess one of the reasons I dislike the film already just by my introduction and that brief story summary. The film doesn’t even bother to take advantage of this whole new world. I was honestly really excited when this film got announced because of thought with the whole conceit being very similar those chain letters you got sent when you were twelve alongside how quickly any video on the internet could end up getting seen by millions, there’d be a lot to play with for the director. I mean could you imagine Samara being inflicted on the world because of YouTube? In the right hands that could be amazing! But while the film does hint at this at the very end, it just forgets about all the tantalising opportunities the internet offers.
Instead what the film goes for is a retread of the original, as in the American one. I think even though it does not match the Japanese original, most people have come to a consensus the film is decent and one of the better ways to remake a foreign horror. But the thing that film had going for it was complete mystery, when you first saw that video you had no idea what it was. The scary Japanese girl trope was not yet a thing, the sort of imagery it used was novel for the time and Sarah Michelle Gellar is a great leading lady that should not be defined by Buffy god damn it. This film has none of that, so it’s mostly a bore as our two planks of wood try to find the corpse of Samara in some drizzly American town.
The thing Rings lacks is that creeping dread. With The Ring, the film constantly pointed out how long it was going to be until Sarah Michelle Gellar was going to die. It created a sense of urgency and made sure the audience knew the stakes of what was happening. This film does not do that, you aren’t even sure of the rules of the curse. When Julie discovers she is cursed, we are quickly informed that it is different from the ones we’ve seen before. That’s fine, that would make the plot more interesting and unique compared to the other Ring films. But we are never told the new rules of the curse, and everyone seems to forget that Julia’s going to die. There’s no pace to the plot or the actions of any of the characters, they just mope themselves into some rather unscary things.
And yes, that is the biggest flaw of the Rings. It’s not the slightest bit scary. Because the film fails to establish any sort of atmosphere, that would actually take some effort, the film’s attempts to scare you come in two different and equally unappealing ways. One, lots of so called creepy imagery that is neutered because this is a PG13 so you can’t get too graphic or startling. And secondly, our old friends jump scares, There’s a lot of jump scares in this as that is the cheapest, easiest way to get you interested in the movie. And it’s about as insulting to your intelligence as you’d expect because they are just limp, lazy and forgettable.
It all amounts to a film that is incredibly boring, because Rings can’t even entertain you with how terrible it is like The Bye Bye Man did. It’s just plain atrocious and I’m really struggling to think of nice things to say about it. As I said earlier in the movie, the fact the film hints at Samara going viral at the end is a nice idea that just makes me more frustrated they didn’t go for it here. And there is some other stuff in that ending that actually suggests that there might be a better movie in here somewhere, but of course it got buried in a whole lot of rubbish.
Rings is just plain dull. Like the drizzly rain that dominates the movie, it’s not interesting and it feels like it goes on for a lot longer than it actually does. A lot of the time with these terrible horror movies, they are so misjudged that they can at least provide some humour like The Bye Bye Man does. But this one doesn’t. it just goes on, being thoroughly mediocre and not doing anything of any interest. There is potential for a good Ring movie to be made in this era because of how it could take advantage of neew technology, but this isn’t it.