Review: Rings

3 10

PLOT: A young woman finds that her boyfriend has joined a secret club that watches the fabled cursed video tape of Samara Morgan. Once again, the ghost is unleashed, killing people who watch the tape within seven days.

REVIEW: As appetizing as a cup of moldy well water, F. Javier Gutierrez's RINGS wears the signs of a movie that is both overcooked and misconceived. The film was shot almost two years ago, went through multiple release date changes and finally lands with a thud in early February, the boondocks of the release schedule, and watching it gives great insight into why. There's no doubt it's a movie that had three or four different primary focuses at different times in its creation. Its messy storyline wants to add new wrinkles to the already-complicated mythology of villainous ghost Samara while more or less adhering to the same formula as Gore Verbinski's killer 2002 THE RING. That's like putting lipstick on a pig, as the old saying goes, and RINGS ultimately doesn't qualify as a satisfyingly fresh reboot of the franchise or as a serviceable quasi-remake of the film that briefly started the J-horror remake craze.

I think one problem RINGS exposes with this series of movies is that Samara isn't a very compelling villain. All she ever does is walk out of a TV and look at you. This is something that was pretty cool in the first one because American audiences hadn't really seen anything of that nature before; it was a visual that could have been unintentionally laughable but ended up being quite chilling. (Also helps that Verbinski didn't overuse it to death.) RINGS attempts to shake things up by having Samara walk out of an airplane radar at one point, a smart phone at another. Guess what? Now it's laughable. And no, there's nothing exactly unique about Samara this time around; she's still soggy, cranky, into the emo look and killing people mostly at random because they've watched her video tape, which is another element that feels so dated now. RINGS is nothing if not incredible stale.

A movie like this depends on the actors at the center of the piece, and the first RING had Naomi Watts, who was similarly new to audiences at the time and, of course, gave an incredibly strong performance. (We'll not talk much about THE RING TWO other than to say it would be fairly unwatchable if not for Watts' return.) RINGS gives us Matilda Lutz, Italian actress and model. Lutz is a very lovely girl, but Naomi Watts she is not, and centering a film around her vacant stares does not do RINGS any favors. While she uncovers the mystery of Samara and even encounters supernatural horrors, Lutz barely gives us anything to work with. At one point she hardly reacts to the phenomena of a girl being murdered in the next room by Samara. Not faring any better is Alex Roe as Lutz's boyfriend, who similarly looks just right for an Ambercrombie ad campaign, less so for the lead role of a Hollywood movie. Sorry to say, with these two as our guides, you'll be rooting for Samara to wrap things up with the quickness.

After a ridiculous sequence on an airplane in which Samara successfully claims her one victim while simultaneously wiping out hundreds of innocent passengers (guess she doesn't really have qualms about such things), RINGS introduces a slightly intriguing premise: a college professor (Johnny Galecki) has discovered the cursed video tape that, of course, kills you seven days after you watch it, and decides it's a good opportunity to delve into the big questions of life after death. He basically starts an after-school club for students willing to be cursed by this tape, and then finds them "tails," people who will be shown the tape after them, and so on. Just what the professor plans on doing with this information when all is said and done is never quite explained, but it's at least a somewhat fresh notion, and I thought RINGS was maybe about to explore a different side of its worn-out premise.

But not really. Julia (Lutz) is the real protagonist of the movie, who learns her boyfriend is involved with this nutty experiment and fears for his life. After nearly being tricked into watching the tape by a desperate student (Aimee Teegarden), Julia sees the damage Samara can cause for herself. She decides to not only become her boyfriend's tail (keep the snide jokes to a minimum), but dig into the backstory of Samara. Once again, we have to learn the history of the ghost girl, although naturally the three screenwriters credited have piled even more pertinent information, like how there's a cursed video within the already-cursed video, new revelations about Samara's mother, and how it all ties into the blind caretaker (Vincent D'Onofrio) of a cemetery.

As you can probably guess, so much of RINGS is exposition, with characters wearing stern expressions while explaining gravely serious news to one another. As a person tangentially familiar with who/what Samara is, I wasn't interested in revisiting her background, and the new info provided was unnecessary. No matter how many new factoids you add to her legend, she still does the same thing time and time again. The movie is just padding itself out with anecdotes that no one in the audience could possibly care about. The third act tries to shake things up with an action-suspense sequence that is, without spoiling things, incredibly reminiscent of a recent, successful horror movie, but it's nowhere near as skillfully crafted. The very end of the film - the supposed "holt shit!" moment - ends up being a "who cares?!" moment.

I'm really not even sure who RINGS is for. It's likely going to bore people already familiar with THE RING, and it won't do anything for newbies who'll be turned off by the silly storyline and weak scares. (Oh, did I mention? The movie is not scary at all.) Frankly, RINGS likely exists thanks to producers looking to kickstart an affordable and familiar franchise... and it will do nothing of the sort. At the risk of trotting out a cliche, it's time to let Samara rest in peace for good.

Source: JoBlo.com



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