She’s back! Evil is reborn as Samara, the creepy dead kid in a well who crawls out of the TV screen when you watch a haunting, eerie videotape and proceeds to ‘Do The Nasty’ returns for a third American outing. But time has moved on since she last appeared in The Ring Two, the 2002 sequel to the 2000 remake of the formidable 1998 Japanese original (are you keeping up?) and Samara is now a digital presence, her very particular brand of nightmare distributed via shared files and attachments and assorted other computer-related gubbins. Unfortunately for Samara and her various shrieks and jumps, horror movies have become a little more sophisticated since she last burst out of the screen, courtesy of the likes of The Babadook, The Conjuring series, It Follows and this year’s wildly overrated Get Out and even M. Night Shyamalan has hit another purple patch following the success of last year’s Split. These are generally slick, edgy, contemporary horror movies which largely evade the clichés and tropes of the genre and succeed in unsettling and terrifying their audiences in rather subtler ways. As a result Rings feels like it’s arrived a good decade too late and, more catastrophically, it’s deathly dull and really not very good.
And yet it all starts off reasonably promisingly when Samara is unleashed in a Seattle-bound passenger plane in what is to be the film’s only remotely effective and affecting moment. Two years later the VCR (that’s video cassette recorder for non-historians) owned by one of the plane’s unfortunates comes into the possession of college professor Gabriel (Galecki) and eventually the Ring cycle is set into motion all over again as Julia (Hutz) tries to discover the whereabouts of her missing boyfriend Skye (Teegarden) when he goes off to college and promptly drops off-radar. Thus develops, at a tortuous pace and with a remarkable lack of tension, the story of the battle to bring the curse of Samara to an end once and for all by locating her burial place and cremating her mortal remains.
If you’re a fan of the Ring series or are still likely, all these years later, to be even remotely spooked by the sight of the creepy jet-black-haired girl climbing out a well or a TV screen then you’ll get all you need (or possibly deserve) from this tired, derivative, thin gruel. But this is a film which is just going through the motions, largely retelling a story we’re already familiar with whilst trying to add some unnecessary and uninteresting additional backstory to the myth of Samara and, apart from having the wit to turn Samara’s deadly video digital (and with an ending which really capitalises on the idea, managing to provide the film’s only real sit-up-and-take-notice moment) has very little to genuinely recommend it because there really doesn’t seem to be any reason for it to exist this long after the originals beyond the desire for an ideas-strapped studio keen to wring a last few dollars from an idea well past its scream-at date. Today’s horror films are really so much cleverer and inventive than this; it’s fair to say that most of them run rings around Rings.
Special features: Terror Comes Full Circle / Resurrecting the Dead: Bringing Back Samara / scary scenes / deleted/extended/alternative scenes
RINGS / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: F JAVIER GUTIERREZ / SCREENPLAY: DAVID LOUCKA, JACOB AARON ESTES, AKIVA GOLDSMAN / STARRING: MATILDA LUTZ, ALEX ROE, JOHNNY GALECKI, VINCENT D’ONOFRIO, AIMEE TEEGARDEN / RELEASE DATE: 29TH MAY