Ring movie which is surprising because the timeline for another one of these should’ve been never. Does anyone in the states care about this series? To try for a third picture seems like a fool’s errand to me. The first one is completely self contained and unique in the world of horror. The base premise is pure horror material (watch a video and in seven days a ghost will pop out of your TV and kill you) but the movie plays out much more like a mystery thriller. It’s almost film noir-ish with the characters piecing together what happened to this fucked up little girl. Once the full story is discovered and a cure for the cursed viewer is stumbled upon there isn’t anything else to tell. It’s over. Vamoose babe.
But the studio execs couldn’t help themselves and went for a sequel. It was absolutely terrible. You can read what I thought here. Then nothing for a long while. Now we got number three to contend with.
The first thing you should probably know is that this is not really a sequel even though it’s been touted as such. All evidence shows this is a reboot. Nothing is mentioned of the first two installments whatsoever, Samara’s backstory is tweaked and certain rules in the Ring universe are changed.
But here’s how shit goes down. It starts with some dude on a plane who reaches his seven day milestone. He chats with a chick across the aisle telling her (the audience) about a video that eventually kills you after you watch it. She thinks he’s a weirdo but then all of a sudden the plane goes haywire and Samara murders the guy. It’s an open question if the others on the flight survived. Would Samara massacre a whole airplane full of folks just to take out one man? If everyone on board really did die then that’s fucking bullshit. The only person that should die is the cursed individual. Plus we know what the outcome is when there are witnesses. In the first film the friend of the victim in the opening scene becomes traumatized. She ends up in a mental hospital and doesn’t really speak or emote at all. Did this happen to the passengers on the plane? We never find out.
Skip to Professor Gabriel (Johnny Galecki (In Time)) buying the VCR of the guy who died on the flight at a flea market. He likes it ‘cause it’s “vintage”. When he takes the thing back to his way cool warehouse bachelor pad he jams a screwdriver in the video slot because that’s how you get a VCR to work? What the fuck is he doing? I bet Galecki (who was forty when they made this (yea the math is a little off but I’ll get to why later on)) was like “do I really have to do this? I grew up with this technology and this doesn’t make any damn sense”. Anyway a VHS tape pops out (on its own mind you, not from the fiddling with the screwdriver) and the good professor lights up a joint and puts the tape on. Although I swear I remember the tape starting to play by itself but whatever.
Skip to our boyfriend/girlfriend main leads, Holt ((Alex Roe (The 5th Wave)) and Julia (Matilda Lutz in her first major role), saying their goodbyes to each other because Holt is off to college. We never find out why Julia is staying behind at home and not also going to college. There could be a million reasons for this and it doesn’t really matter, but it’s kinda lazy filmmaking to not even have one throwaway line to explain.
After six weeks or so Julia gets a Skype call from Holt except when she picks up it’s some lady looking for Holt and she’s all panicky spouting cryptic inane shit to get the audience stirred up. Julia decides to investigate and drives to Holt’s college. She finds Professor Gabriel who gives her the runaround on Holt and scurries off as quickly as he can. Thinking this is suspicious Julia tails him to the seventh floor of one of the main school buildings. She finds that the entire floor has been taken over by a mess of students and Gabriel conducting some sort of experiment with the cursed video. There are countdown clocks on the wall, video projections of scenes from the tape and what appears to be all out partying. It’s a pretty strange sight. Eventually Julia finds Holt and they journey to solve what the shit on the tape is or means.
So this is similar to the first picture except there’s one big difference. It’s true that in The Ring (and Ringu) our leading ladies were trying to decipher the images on the tape but they were also looking for a way out of the curse. They only had a week so there was a major ticking clock element to the story. In Rings everyone knows how to exorcize themselves of the curse from the get go. Presumably Professor Gabriel figured this out and told his Guinea pigs. The very large problem though is that we’re never shown or told just how Gabriel knew to make a copy and show it to someone else to lift the curse. That’s too big of a fucking hole to leave in your movie guy. Again, there’s no reference to the first two films so there needs to be a discovery of the solution somehow in here and it’s not there. The filmmakers are going on the assumption the audience knows how this works so they didn’t rehash it. That was a really bad decision.
Now since all of our characters have a certified way of dealing with the curse there’s no excuse for anyone to die. They have the knowledge to set themselves free. But guess what? Every single person waits until the last goddamn minute to do anything about it. Put yourself in their shoes. Would you try to relieve yourself of imminent assured death right away or put it off for six days and twenty three hours? I get that there needs to be tension ‘n’ shit in your movie but having every character, except Julia, be negligent and/or braindead doesn’t make me care about them. They had their wide open shot to deal with it and they fucked it up. So fuck them. This is some dumb scriptwriting fellas.
Spoilers in this next paragraph, skip to the following one if you don’t want to know Samara’s new backstory
With Samara’s backstory the filmmakers decided to rewrite it. The part about her being born pure evil and infecting her hometown with plight is all there. But the change is her father was one wicked asshole sonuvabitch that maybe actually wanted a demon child. You see this small town reverend raped a local girl and then kept her locked up in a secret bunker beneath the church during the pregnancy. When the baby was born she had special powers and things went bad in the town so she had to go. I don’t think it’s ever explained but I guess the father is the one that tossed Samara down the well to kill her. So daddy’s the co-villain in this installment which I’m fine with because it changes it up enough. Otherwise it’s exactly the same old shit you’ve seen before.
You’re safe from here on out
I have to bring up the religious symbolism they threw in. The Ring series was never about religion, at least the American ones. The original Japanese picture had some spiritualism sprinkled in but it was in the background. In Rings the filmmakers for some reason felt that there needed to be a Christian connection and imply that Samara’s the anti-Christ. You got a church, a priest, many visions of crucifixes, you could say Samara rises from the dead, a flood and a swarm of cicadas (‘cause I suppose locusts would’ve been just a little too on the nose). I don’t necessarily mind the film trying this out but at the same time part of why I like the Ring universe is because there aren’t any religious aspects to it. It’s simply a magical curse and a nasty chick that comes to kill you in a week. Usually something like that would have a religious angle but the concept is so intriguing that extra help isn’t needed to sell it. It’s non-discriminatory that way and I like it.
Probably the weirdest aspect to the entire movie though is that we’re still dealing with a cursed VHS tape. Sure, they make an attempt to update the technology by converting it to a video file you can watch on a computer. But even that method is outdated or only used by certain professionals. The real update is YouTube or some similar video streaming site. But I can understand why they didn’t want to open that can of worms. If YouTube were involved everyone in the world would be cursed and then how do you make a copy and share it to save yourself? Shit gets way too messy so they sidestepped it. They also dodged the fact that all of the students who took place in the college experiment would’ve uploaded the cursed video to YouTube as soon as they got their hands on it. It’s a fucking miracle no one did.
However, having the video be available on YouTube was already done in Sadako 3D, the fifth film in the Japanese line that came out in 2012. But they went off in a totally bonkers direction for that picture which I actually kinda enjoyed. That one plays out more like a grindhouse movie where Sadako (the Samara equivalent) can use her giant hair as a weapon by twirling it around and there’s an army of half bug half Sadako creatures and all sorts of stuff. American audiences would never go for something like that in this context. Maybe if it were its own thing and not a Ring movie. But to completely change the format and attempt a radically different approach would put too many folks off. So if you like the idea of the Ring but are frustrated with the American ones then check out the Japanese films. They’ve made so many sequels and they all do their own distinct thing. I wish the American studios would take more chances on different tones and styles for sequels but they know that shit doesn’t really sell here. So we tend to get the same damn thing over and over.
Rings was shot in 2015 and originally scheduled to come out the same year. But reshoots and schedule changes pushed this sucker into 2017 (that’s why the math didn’t seem to add up earlier). It’s never good when a film sits for that long because it shows that the studio has no faith in it. They kinda need to realize the Ring concept isn’t franchise-able. Hey Hollywood, you have to accept it’s only one movie. And if you’re unwilling to go way off course then you’re gonna inevitably and boringly repeat yourself.
The changes they made here aren’t nearly enough to breathe new life into the ol’ gal. Even the last little twist (minor spoiler) sets up the idea used in The Ring Two where Samara is looking for a way to cross over into the real world full time. Look, overall this is bland crap that I’ll forget about tomorrow. But that was expected and the sad part is some amount of disappointment goes along with that notion. There’s a tiny piece of your mind that thinks it could be a surprisingly good piece of work but alas, the odds prove out and the house wins. So there’s nothing to see here folks. Keep moving.