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Review: Rings (2017)

Rings (2017)

Directed by: F. Javier Gutiérrez

Premise: The third film in the Ring series. A young woman and her boyfriend get caught up in the curse of Samara, the evil ghost that is unleashed by watching a bizarre VHS tape. A researcher uses the tape as part of an experiment to prove the existence of the afterlife. 

What Works: The first and last sequences of Rings are impressive. The movie opens aboard an airplane as Samara catches up with a passenger mid-flight. This sequence effectively plays upon fears of flying and the claustrophobia of airline travel. The very last scene of Rings also plays effectively. The imagery utilizes our fear of viral attacks and the final set piece is the one moment in the new film that successfully adapts the concept of the series to the digital age.

What Doesn’t: There is a lot wrong with Rings but the primary problem is that it is unclear if this film is supposed to be a sequel or a reboot. There’s reason to believe that Rings is a sequel since it relies upon the audience’s understanding of the premise of this series; the film does not reiterate the exposition or the backstory and it assumes that the viewer understands how the curse works. However, the story of Rings has little connection to the events of the previous Ring movies and in a few instances it contradicts the continuity of the series. If Rings is supposed to be a reboot it isn’t very good at that either. It does not reintroduce Samara and the concept of the curse and the new Ring film repeats a lot of the same scenarios and plot twists of the 2002 movie but doesn’t do them nearly as well. The few innovations of Rings are poorly executed and fail to update the movie. The concept of The Ring was of an analog era when VHS was the dominant format. The Ring films came out at the end of the VHS era and the new installment has the potential to do something creative with the end of the tape format and the advent of digital filmmaking, file sharing, and streaming. But the filmmakers of Rings don’t put a lot of thought into the concept and Samara does not translate well into the age of YouTube. For that matter, it does not seem as though the filmmakers put much thought into anything in this movie. A supernatural story has its own internal logic and has to marry the reality of the story world to the real world. That’s what makes it convincing and therefore scary. The 2002 Ring movie did that terrifically but the 2017 film does not. In fact, it fails to represent anything recognizable at all. The characters of this movie make inexplicable and stupid decisions. The plot of Rings is mostly random with the characters running into clues but failing to ask obvious questions. There aren’t really any characters in this movie. To be a character means more than assigning a name to an actor. Each person in a story ought to have at least one (but preferably more) distinct characteristics that differentiate them from everyone else and define who they are. The characters of Rings aren’t defined in any way. They have no substance and the actors don’t do anything to contribute to their roles. The film is led by Matilda Lutz and Alex Roe and neither of them have any screen presence, they aren’t convincing as a couple, and the script does not give either of them anything worthwhile to do. Rings also fails as a horror film. It isn’t scary at all. 2002’s The Ring and its sequel had some memorable and unsettling images and the filmmakers of those films staged the scares with admirable showmanship. Rings doesn’t do that at all. The filmmakers don’t show any craft for misdirection or framing the action and the only jumps they get away with are due to clobbering the audience with a sound effect. Rings is also another horror film whose makers don’t know the difference between being dark and spooky and just being murky and a lot of the action is hard to decipher.  

Bottom Line: Rings is a lousy appendage to the existing series. This was clearly intended to reignite the franchise but it does not recapture what was so good and scary about the 2002 film nor does it reimagine the gimmick for today’s audience.

Episode: #635 (February 19, 2017)