In five years, when I gaze back through the passage of time and remember my experience seeing the ill-begotten horror sequel Rings, I think it’s the woman sitting a few rows in front of me absolutely reeking of pot that I’ll remember the most. It really set the stage. One, I wish I’d had a pot or two, so I could have slept through Rings. (As it was, I was almost there.) And two, I’m pretty sure half the cast of Rings was stoned when they were filming this thing. And not in a good, stoner comedy way. If I was half asleep, so was everyone on-screen.
Simply put, Rings is one of the most boring movies I’ve ever seen in my life. The only interesting thing about it, is how it manages to pack this much dull into 102 minutes. In that, director F. Javier Gutiérrez is a maestro.
You know how, when you walked out of the first Rings you were like, ah, man, that was so 1337! (It was 2002.) But I really wish we had more pointless backstory for that Samara chick. Like, a really large amount of backstory, at the expense of anything remotely frightening. Well then, congratulations, because Rings is for you.
You know the basic premise: There’s a video, you watch it, seven days later a goth pre-teen crawls out of your TV and murders you. Caught up in the mess this time are a pair of dimwitted twentysomethings—self-sacrificing Julia (Matilda Lutz) and sensitive Holt (Alex Roe)—as well as Gabriel, an “I’m not a normal college professor, I’m a cool college professor” played by…. Johnny Galecki? Sure. You know he’s all badass because he smokes pot and fucks one of his students (Aimee Teegarden) and coordinates an experiment that’s meant to uncover something about the ~*~soul~*~ by studying Samara’s tape.
The way Gabriel does this is by enlisting some of his students, including Holt, to watch the tape and suffer through several days of Samara-induced ill-effects—hallucinations, physical marks and the like—before finding a “tail” to watch a copy of the tape for them, thus passing on the curse to the next victim. Rings only gives lip service to the fact that two of its main characters are thus legitimately horrible people, though softbro meatstick Holt, who tells Julia about the myth of Orpheus before solemnly intoning “I relate to the guy,” is so bland it’s tough to care about him either way. Libraries all over the country are closing their doors, but Big Bang Theory over here gets funding to put out a supernatural hit on people. Our educational system really is broken.
To be fair to Rings, the idea of how Samara’s video would propagate in our technologically advanced society is interesting, and Rings does touch on it… for like five minutes. The bulk of the movie’s running time is made up of Holt and Julia, who watched a copy of the video Hoyt made so he could be safe (NO GIRL WHY. EVERYONE IN THIS MOVIE IS STUPID.), running around trying to decode some “message” of Samara’s. The phrase “video within a video” is used. The mystery brings Hoyt and Julia to the tiny town of Sacrament Valley, which holds the key to Samara’s backstory and how—Julia believes—her soul can be put to rest.
But here’s the thing: Who gives a shit? If I’m watching Rings, I want chills and thrills, not an answer to the “mystery” of [SPOILER] who Samara’s biological parents are. (And FYI, the fact that she’s the product of rape.) I’ve watched infomercials scarier than this movie. Not helped along is the fact that Lutz turns in one of the most wooden leading performances I’ve ever had the misfortune of seeing. The movie makes a point of establishing that Julia isn’t scared of Samara—that she wants to be her savior (good luck)—but protip, having a main character who’s never afraid of the monster coming to get her isn’t the most effective tactic for a horror movie. There’s the odd jump scare—Samara, barely present in her own movie, seen through a keyhole; an umbrella loudly popping open right into the camera—but that’s about it.
To give Lutz the benefit of the doubt, I can’t imagine being particularly invested in a movie with such lines of dialogue as:
“This is gonna sound crazy, but… you ever hear about the videotape that kills you after you watch it?”
“I just had the strangest conversation of my life with that weird girl.”
“Whatever you are… leave him alone.”
And, my favorite:
“Could you tell me even more about the church?”
Oh. I get it. Tommy Wiseau wrote this movie.
Vincent D’Onofrio puts in an appearance, and you can tell he’s at least making an effort, but he’s nowhere close to relieving Rings of its terminal tepidity. And there’s the requisite final moments plot twist, of course. That’s visible from a mile away, of course. (And doesn’t make any sense, to boot: [Major spoilers] Julia and Holt have burned Samara’s bones, which they think means she’s been set free. But instead Samara’s plan the whole time was to draw Julia in and possess her… for some reason. Why does Samara need to possess people? One of the final shots is Julia, who’s now turned into Samara, using her psychic mojo to send a digital copy of the video out to dozens of people. Did Samara need Julia’s contacts list or something? Samara, you can get your own Gmail account these days. It’s free..) That’s meant to set up a sequel or twelve, of course. I pray that doesn’t happen. Samara may be a mass murderer, but she doesn’t deserve this shit.