I didn't like it, so I won't put a ring on it
This sure is a strange one, isn’t it? It’s been almost 12 years since the release of the last film in “The Ring” series hit theaters with “The Ring Two” in 2005. The sequel to the highly acclaimed 2002 remake of the Japanese horror classic featured the return of Naomi Watts and even managed to get the director of the original Japanese film, Hideo Nakata, to take the reins of the film. Despite this, “The Ring Two” dropped to smaller box-office returns and abysmal reviews. For a while, it seemed like the series was dead, but in 2014, Paramount (taking over from DreamWorks, who produced the first two films) announced “Rings,” the long awaited third film in the series, with J. Javier Gutiérrez taking the director’s chair. Yet, the question still remains, why do we need another film in “The Ring” series?
Spoiler alert: we don’t.
Julia (Matilda Lutz) is a young woman dealing with being away from her boyfriend, Holt (Alex Roe) for the first time after he goes away to college. When he mysteriously begins ignoring her calls, she travels to his college to find out that Holt’s biology professor, Gabriel (Johnny Galecki) found the famous tape from the previous films; the tape that if you watch, seven days later you will die at the hands of Samara (Bonnie Morgan), the soul of a tortured girl killed on suspicion of witchcraft. Not knowing what to do with the information, Gabriel begins to show his students to make sure the trail of the tape never makes it back to him. When Julia finally finds Holt, all three must investigate to make sure how to beat Samara once and for all.
“Rings” sucks. There’s no real way around it, as this is a film so utterly unscary that I find it shocking that this exists in the same series as the wonderfully atmospheric original film. I can’t say that there was a single moment in the film that even slightly creeped me out, let alone full-on scared me. The worst part about “Rings” is that it’s not nearly as bad as something like “The Bye Bye Man,” sucking all the fun out of the equation. “Rings” just wallows in its own dullness until it finds some way to end the film and get it over with. There doesn’t seem to be any resemblance of enthusiasm seen from any of the actors or crew, and if you can’t even get the people you’re paying to produce the film care, you have an issue.
The acting is exactly what you’ve come to expect from a horror film of this caliber: no name leads, C-list cameos, stilted dialogue, strange emotional cues, wooden delivery, all wrapped in an attractive, yet dull white bow. Lutz and Roe are as disposable as they come, resembling every other attractive, somehow wealthy, oblivious no name horror leads to hit the scene since it became a cliché to pull this type of casting. Even worse, the film is hit with two supporting roles played by actors who typically do good work. Galecki is typically the only character on “The Big Bang Theory” I can tolerate, but it’s Vincent D’Onofrio’s Burke that broke my heart the most. While I know “Rings” sat on the shelf for quite some time, I can’t imagine how big the paycheck was for D’Onofrio to even consider being in a film like this. It hurts more than it helps, so I hope he at least got a nice boat out of this deal.
Directed by F. Javier Gutiérrez, this is as generic of a horror film as they come. This is a dark, dreary film that doesn’t seem to actively give any explanation on why it needs to be this way other than that it looks creepy. The film looks as if it were run through a generic desaturation tool during editing that gives the film an ugly, faded sheen to it. Had Galecki and D’Onofrio not starred in this film, I honestly wouldn’t have been surprised had Paramount taken the route of putting this film direct-to-VOD. Many of the pivotal scenes of the movie seemed to be directly lifted from other horror films of its kind, but often that of less respected horror films that not that many people would notice. Here’s the thing, if it didn’t work the first time, it sure wouldn’t work here. (And guess what? I did notice.)
When a film takes a large gap between sequels like this one, there’s a certain standard to show how much times have changed between the two films. Therefore, there is no excuse as to why the CGI used in the film, specifically that of the effects on Samara, should look worse than they did in the original film made in 2002. Nearly 15 years later, we’re plagued with CGI directly taken from the SyFy channel that’s funnier than it is frightening. Even with that, the attempts made to modernize the film are half-hearted at best. Rather than finding new and inventive ways to involve technology in Samara’s rampage, they simply transferred the VHS tape to that of a hard drive (I’m not kidding, that’s literally all they do). This is a film written by older men thinking they have a grasp on how technology works and how millennials interact, but it comes across more stilted than any other movie I’ve seen in a while.
Originally, the film was to be released in 3D, which I’m a bit sad about. “Rings” is a film that would’ve worked better had it been released at the height of the 3D craze (it would’ve worked best had it not been made at all), finding a way to make this cheesy, unscary film fun in any sort of way. The film could’ve been over-the-top and cheesy, throwing all sorts of supernatural tomfoolery at the audience. Sure, it still would’ve sucked as a film, but it could’ve given it that amusement park feel that it needed. Instead, we have a dark, dreary, completely unscary, incoherent film that blows any sort of chance to resurrect this series to anything of any value. Accept the inevitable: there will never be another good film in this series without a hard reboot with actual talent behind it. If studios want people to care about the franchises they keep alive, it would do them good to care about them as well.
Directed by: F. Javier Gutiérrez
Starring: Matilda Lutz, Alex Roe, Johnny Galecki, Aimee Teegarden, Bonnie Morgan, and Vincent D’Onofrio.
Runtime: 102 minutes
Rating: PG-13 for violence/terror, thematic elements, some sexuality and brief drug material.
Paramount Pictures presents, a Parkes+MacDonald ImageNation production, “Rings”