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Rings (A Movie Review)

Updated: Mar 20, 2020


RINGS (2017)

Starring Matilda Lutz, Alex Roe, Johnny Galecki, Vincent D’Onofrio, Aimee Teegarden, Bonnie Morgan, Chuck Willis, Patrick Walker, Zach Roerig, Laura Wiggins, Lizzie Brocheré, Ricky Muse, Randall Taylor, Jill Jane Clements and Kayli Carter.

Screenplay by Jacob Aaron Estes & David Loucka and Akiva Goldsman.

Directed by F. Javier Gutiérrez.

Distributed by Paramount Pictures.  107 minutes.  Rated PG-13.

Here comes the latest in the long list of series reboots for film franchises that no one was really missing all that much.  Rings is sort of a sequel, and at the same time sort of an origin story, to the early millennium American versions of the 1998 Japanese horror classic Ringu.  The 2002 Americanization The Ring was actually not bad, and a fairly sizable hit.  However by the time The Ring Two came and went with barely a whimper in 2005, you could be forgiven for thinking the series had been laid to rest.

Well, twelve years later, here comes Rings to prove you wrong.

The series actually had a pretty cool premise, about a mysterious video cassette with a confounding series of images (the video looks like it was patterned after an old Luis Bunuel film) which lead to a mysterious long-haired brunette girl whose hair covers her face looking at the watcher menacingly from the screen.  After watching the video, the person who watched it gets a call saying they have seven days.  Once those seven days pass, they die in spectacular fashion, attacked by the ghost of that girl.

Of course, those films were made back when they still had land lines and video cassettes.  They were meant as something of an indictment of communication devices that are now pretty much left in the past.  What does Rings have to offer in the modern day?

Sadly, not all that much, it seems.

Oh, sure, they add cell phones, iPads and computer video files to the equation, but it still feels way behind the technological curve.  This in itself wouldn’t be such a bad thing if the storyline stood up, but that also feels sort of old and creaky, too.

The movie starts with a setup opening.  A guy is on a plane and asks the woman next to him if she has heard the story of the deadly videotape that kills people seven days after they watch it?  Shockingly, the woman doesn’t ask who watches videotapes anymore, but instead listens to her seatmate explaining how he watched it seven days ago, and he was going to prove it to be a myth.  Cue the sudden nose bleed, mysterious bugs, running water down the aisle, engine failure and eventual plane crash.  Dude, really, didn’t you see that coming?  It’s bad enough your vanity killed yourself, but you had to take down hundreds of other people with you?

Two years later, a popular college professor (Johnny Galecki of The Big Bang Theory) is at a flea market and sees a VCR for sale.  The salesperson tells him it belonged to a guy who was in that big plane crash a couple of years earlier.  The Prof takes it home and finds a tape stuck inside while trying hard to get it working.  (Why would someone work so hard to fix a used videocassette player when unused ones are still fairly widely available and cheap online?)

Does he watch the unlabeled videocassette?  What do you think?

Then the film reboots yet again to get us to the eventual star of the show.  Julia (Matilda Lutz) is the hometown girlfriend of one of the professor’s hunky students named Holt (Alex Roe).  After an evening cybersex Skype is interrupted by a couple of his buddies who want to go out partying, Holt appears to have disappeared.  Julia decides to go to try and find Holt at the college.

At first no one knows where Holt is, nor will they give her any information on what he was up to.  While investigating, she realizes that it all seems to have something to do with the Professor, who has turned the video into something of an experiment.  The Prof has come up with what he thinks is a loophole – if you show the video to someone else while your seven days are still going, the ghost will move on to them.  (And this guy is getting paid to teach impressionable minds?)  Therefore, he has a bunch of students watch the video via file share, assuring them that as long as they have someone else watch a copy within seven days they will be safe.  Not surprisingly, this pyramid scheme of death starts to develop some cracks.

Despite Holt’s insistence that she not see it, Julia watches the video to save her hunky boyfriend.  But, somehow, she sees things that no one else has seen before.  Apparently she has a special connection to the ghost.  And she gets clues to track down the original victim, leading her and her boyfriend to a bucolic small town with a dark past.  Julia and Holt try to figure out who the girl in the well was, what happened to her, and to get her buried so that her soul would find some peace.

Of course, things are never that simple.

For all the crazy, inscrutable things going on in Rings, the biggest mystery is this: what are fairly respected and well-known actors like Johnny Galecki and Vincent D’Onofrio doing in this cheesy potboiler?

Also, oddly, the new telling of the story pretty much excises all the Japanese flair of the original films, instead making it a pretty boilerplate and very American haunting.

The film ends with the very clear intention of setting up yet another sequel.  Maybe if we all ignore Rings, that idea will fade away and that poor long-haired devil-child will finally find some peace.  Or at least she’ll stop bugging us.

Dave Strohler

Copyright ©2017 All rights reserved. Posted: March 5, 2017.

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