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As per this kumbaya article, after 16 years; this will be my last theatrical/new release review.
THE RING franchise was of course born out of Hideo Nakata’s 1998 masterpiece RINGU. And after a string of sequels, they are presently at the “versus” stage (i.e. milk that cow dry) with SADAKO VS KAYAKO (2016), which sees the ghostly girl from RINGU battle that creepy beeyatch from the THE GRUDGE series. The American take on the material didn’t get that far. THE RING was a critical and financial hit in 2002, but THE RING TWO (which was inexplicably directed by RINGU’s Hideo Nakata) aka one of the worst sequels ever made since HERETIC: THE EXORCIST 2, crashed and burned the franchise in 2005. So apart from Jonathan Liebesman’s excellent short RINGS (released on THE RING re-release DVD) which acted as a prologue to the sad-sack sequel– that was that on that for the US of A’s foray into "Ring Land". Until now.
I had high hopes for RINGS (which had nothing to with Liebesman’s short of the same name) after the first trailer surfaced online (which sold a totally different film than the one that I saw BTW). At the same time, I was a tad weary. I mean the movie had been bumped up mucho times since its initial planned release date of November 13, 2015... I ain't no fool! So how did it go down? Well, for me it resulted in a mostly flat “could have been” that still managed to be better than THE RING PART TWO (no big stretch). This sucka, omitted the cast from the first two films (thank Crom, I don't think I could have endured another round of Aiden) to pretty much become a “teen-afied” attempt at rebooting the property for the new generation. One who has no f-ing idea what THE RING is.
On the up side; it sported lavish camera work (DP Sharone Meir got skills), a handful of creepy moments (director F. Javier Gutiérrez nailed some key beats) and the occasional gnarly idea (I dug the way new technology, like IPhones and such, were incorporated into Samara's appearances). Moreover, we were privy to an able cast with newcomer, model turned actress Matilda Lutz doing an admirable job of carrying the chain of events or her slim shoulders. She was well backed by the likes of Alex Roe, Vincent D'Onofrio (doing yet another che-ching glorified cameo) and Johnny “you’ll always be that kid from Roseanne to me” Galecki. Lastly, the last card the third act slammed on the table was pretty damn cool. But it so should have been a more obvious/prominent play throughout the story as opposed to TA-DUM “ last stretch" sucker punch. That would have made the all too familiar ride a much more varied and fulfilling one. But hey, just my opinion, what do I know!?
Yup, RINGS narrative was pedestrian at best. I knew I was in trouble the moment the cool FINAL DESTINATION-esque opening scene kicked in and then ended on a mammoth “limp dick” whimper. How the bleep do you muck up a scene like that?! Made no sense. Overall, this reboot went a little bit like this: set up, a bit of FLATLINERS here, some NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET there, lots of Scooby-Doo-ing around, a pinch of DON’T BREATH for good measure and a rushed conclusion. The connect the dots, aimed at the lowest denominator and filled with “conveniences” investigation angle was took too much space while the fear set pieces were surprisingly scarce. The ghostly Samara (now played by Bonnie Morgan) used to give me the willies, here they didn’t capitalize on her enough. So every time she did pop up, it didn't do much for me. Shite even the “boo scares” were on the down -ow here, which is rare for a PG-13 teen horror flick. More of them could have livened things up! Who knew I'd some day crave more boo scares...
Now that I think of it; RINGS came off as a teen horror flick that’s more akin to the countless THE RING imitators that were gunned out after the original’s success, than the solid OG itself. Add to all that an often lumbering pace, some contrived moments (like our lead gal having a horror Samara dream before she even watched the tape) and a musical score that belonged in an action film not a horror movie and you get a flawed affair – one that most likely spent way too much time in the Studio microwave, hence losing its nuances and flavor.
RINGS was a dumbed down, teeny-bop version of THE RING, created for a new generation. I highly doubt it will re-launch the franchise. On that, I saw the film with an 18 year old that knew nothing about THE RING and she loved it – so there ya have it! Lets see how it does this weekend! Personally, I give myself seven days.... to forget this sequel exists...