Rings follows young woman Julia who, after several events that are ultimately incidental, views a copied video to save her boyfriend, and thereafter begins investigating the origin of Samara in the hope of saving herself.
If that sounds faintly similar to the original film, it’s because it is. Part of what made The Ring so compelling was the gradual uncovering of the mystery behind the video’s existence, learning the rules of Samara’s curse along the way. In an attempt to recapture its eerie tone Rings replicates the structure (woman views weird video, sets out to learn more, is led by cryptic visuals to uncover piecemeal the truth behind a tragedy), but only gives us an artificial expansion of the mythos that merely answers questions that the film itself puts into place. Part of Samara’s intrigue was finding out just enough about her to tell a complete story, and this attempt to reveal more only dilutes her mystique, while the frankly meaningless details uncovered make the exercise a double failure.
Even though everyone already knows the story of the tape and how to beat the curse, it still takes about half an hour before Julia learns all the details the audience already knows, and what little original story there actually is can begin. While this allows for anyone unfamiliar with the series to get up to speed, it moves the plot at a frustratingly sluggish pace, especially as there are two initial scenes before Julia’s story even gets underway.
There is at least some attempt to update the core concept; instead of a VHS cassette requiring physical duplication, the ‘tape’ now exists as a digital video file that can be copied in seconds with a couple of mouse clicks. This adds an extra element to the video’s propagation as it can be watched on any number of devices, while the subculture of fate-tempting thrill seekers that has grown around the video’s urban legend can share it with concerning simplicity. You can easily imagine some malicious troll uploading it to YouTube, the Pirate Bay or any one of dozens of social media sites.Surprisingly, the final revelation driving the story actually harks back (in a roundabout way) to the original novels, but the ham-fisted foreshadowing is nowhere near as clever as it thinks it is, resulting in an unsatisfying payoff. As a horror Rings is disappointingly tame, as a mystery it’s as ponderous as it is simplistic, and as a revival of a once-popular franchise it’s a wasted opportunity, and no amount of prophetic visions, surreal imagery or portentous drivel can convince otherwise.
RINGS / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: F JAVIER GUTIÉRREZ / SCREENPLAY: DAVID LOUCKA, JACOB ESTES, AKIVA GOLDSMAN / STARRING: MATILDA LUTZ, ALEX ROE, JOHNNY GALECKI, VINCENT D’ONOFRIO, AIMEE TEEGARDEN, BONNIE MORGAN / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Expected Rating: 6 out of 10