There are certain clues that movie critics get when a film is going to be bad. The first is if the film's release keeps getting pushed back for weeks or even months. A second is if the early press screenings are held on the night of the film's opening. A third is if the review embargo doesn't lift until twelve hours after the first paid showings of the film. Rings
checks off all three of these warning signs.
A sequel to the 2002 shocker The Ring
(and its subsequent 2005 sequel The Ring Two
) about a ghostly girl named Samara who kills anyone who watches her cursed videotape seven days later, Rings is about a college professor named Gabriel (Johnny Galecki from "The Big Bang Theory") who discovers the infamous tape and launches a research study where he gets unsuspecting students to watch the tape so that he can study life after death and look for proof of the existence of the human soul. Gabriel has students break the curse right before the seven days are up by getting another student to watch a copy, but his chain is interrupted when a subject named Holt (Alex Roe from The Fifth Wave
) gets stuck without another person to watch his video. Holt's girlfriend, Julia (Summertime
's Matilda Lutz), steps in to save Holt and buy some time, but Gabriel discovers that just having another student watch her copy won't stop the curse. Julia, Holt, and Gabriel go in search of a way to save Julia before her time runs out.
has a fun premise, but the concept is where the fun stops. The screenplay, written by David Louka (House at the End of the Street
), Jacob Estes (Mean Creek
), and Akiva Goldsman (Insurgent
), throws in the creative idea of the research project that's built around the videotape, but instead of making that the A-story, the study is used as the catalyst that launches the rest of the movie. After that, Rings is essentially a rehashing of the plot of the first movie, only with bad acting and even worse dialogue - and no horrifically iconic scenes. And it's not even an innovatively fun rehashing, like Blair Witch
. It's a slick-yet-pointless rehashing, like The Thing
Director F. Javier Gutiérrez (Before the Fall
) gives Rings
the old college try, but he is let down by both the material and the actors. The filmmaking is competent, but the story is just too derivative of every other mystery-horror movie, and the hack cast isn't able to save it from mediocrity (although, The Magnificent Seven
's Vincent D'Onofrio shows up halfway through and makes a valiant attempt). Add in the fact that Rings
betrays the overarching mythology of the first two movies, and one gets the feeling that it's just being made up on the spot. And fans deserve more than that.
With all of the pre-release hype and viral video pranks, Rings
is a case of the marketing being better than the movie. A few weeks back, I posited the fact that The Bye Bye Man
had made a solid play for worst movie of the year. Congratulations, Rings
. You've stolen that crown away.
There are very few scares in Rings
, and the ones that are there are cheaply built on loud noises and seizure-inducing visuals. There are some creepily suspenseful moments, and Samara herself is as threatening as ever, but there's nothing in Rings
that audiences didn't see in The Ring
, and The Ring
was much more effective with how it all was done. Even the attempted cut-rate jump scares don't really stick their landing, annoying the audience more than scaring it.
There's a particularly haunting scene in The Ring in which a horse goes crazy on a ferry boat and jumps overboard. Those images stayed with me personally for days, even weeks after I first saw them (heck, I even get chills thinking about them now). There's nothing like that in Rings
. It's sterile.