DIR: F.Javier Gutierrez • WRI: David Loucka, Jacob Estes, Akiva Goldsman • PRO: Laurie MacDonald, Walter F. Parkes • DOP: Sharone Meir • ED: Steve Mirkovich, Jeremiah O’Driscoll • DES: Kevin Kavanaugh • MUS: Matthew Margeson • CAST: Matilda Lutz, Alex Roe, Johnny Galecki, Vincent D’Onofrio, Aimee Teegarden, Bonnie Morgan
Set thirteen years after the events of first of the American Ring films, Rings is focused primarily on teenager Julia, played by Matilda Lutz and her boyfriend Holt, played by Alex Roe. When Holt goes off to college and suddenly disappears, Julia sets off after him to find out where he’s been and uncovers a dark secret linking Holt to the mysterious video which kills anyone who watches it after seven days. After that, the plot pretty neatly imitates its predecessors, following clues and images in the video to track down answers and attempt to bring the spirit Samara’s evil to an end once and for all. However, while it may follow the formula of the earlier films, it doesn’t quite capture the suspense and psychological impact of them.
Rings attempts to expand Samara’s story, adding to her history and her motivation, though it ultimately feels like a pale imitation of everything that came before. The lead couple don’t manage to bring any substance to their story and Matilda Lutz occasionally seems too focused on getting her American accent just right, often failing to make her performance believable or engaging. Vincent D’Onofrio, who has received wide acclaim for his role in Netflix’s Daredevil series performs well as a blind groundskeeper with answers to Samara’s past. Perhaps surprisingly, it’s Johnny Galecki, of The Big Bang Theory fame who gives the most interesting and believable performance as Holt’s biology professor who quickly becomes fascinated with Samara’s video and what it may mean for understanding life and death. Aside from this, character motivations are baffling and unnatural and it’s ultimately very hard to care about who lives or dies.
The plot is, at best, confused. Time jumps forward awkwardly, first two years after the opening scene, then a month and a half later, before focusing on, as you might expect, seven days for the remainder of the film. At its worst, the film alternates between being unfortunately bland and fairly predictable jump-scares. Perhaps the most surprising thing about the film is that it definitely isn’t what its misleading trailers set it up to be. This is not The Ring loose on the worldwide web, taking humanity down through Youtube. Instead it’s a shoddy imitation of the original, minus the originality and atmosphere that made the series so noteworthy. Plot twists abound, but rarely hold up to scrutiny and, despite the sheer number of times that smartphones are clearly shown on screen, characters can’t seem to remember that they exist whenever they’d be of any use.
Rings is not a film to watch if you’re looking for a scare and it doesn’t really fall into the enjoyably bad or cheesy vein of horror either. It’s a limp, forgettable and entirely unnecessary epilogue to a much better story. Watching this film won’t kill you, but there’s a good chance it won’t entertain or frighten you too much either.
Rings Loving is released 3rd February 2017