Cinematic Releases: Rings (2017) - Reviewed

The 2002 film The Ring, an American remake of the iconic Japanese horror (or J-horror) film Ringu, was a huge box office hit that not only popularized J-horror in the US (The Grudge would follow the next year) but also PG-13 horror films. The film and its high-tech premise became symbolic of early-2000’s horror. A forgettable sequel followed in 2005, and then the horror trends moved on to possessions and found footage and torture porn. Perhaps it’s nostalgia for simpler times and trends, or the challenge of seeing how a film whose entire premise revolves around technology that’s been dead for a decade can be made fresh and relevant in the age of YouTube, or a combination of the two, that twelve years later brought us Rings. Or maybe it’s just good old fashioned capitalism. But the movie itself doesn’t do a whole lot to justify its own existence.

Rings is set in the present day, as a college professor (The Big Bang Theory’s Johnny Galecki) discovers the old tape and uses it as the basis of an experiment. College student Holt (Alex Roe, The 5th Wave) and his girlfriend Julia (Matilda Lutz) get mixed up in the experiment, and along the way discover a new dimension to the tragic story of Samara, the girl from the well. The great Vincent D’Onofrio plays a pivotal role as well, which cannot be elaborated on without spoiling key plot points. And it is quite a plot. But considering how much happens, it never manages to be all that interesting.

The worst sin a film can commit is not to be bad, but to be dull. If a film is bad, at least it’s something. Rings, for all of its creepy imagery, somehow never manages to be engaging. Even the usual cheap jump scares aren’t very effective. The film just kind of slogs along for an hour and 45 minutes, unfolding its story but never really making the viewer care about it or its characters. The lame and puzzling ending does little to remedy this. Rings is a film that wishes it was as creepy as it looks.

Now that's high definition!

Rings is a film that fails to elicit any sort of strong emotion from its viewers. It’s not a good movie, nor is it a bad movie by most accepted definitions. It is a movie that is just there, existing, telling a story in under two hours and then immediately fading away into the ether. But that’s not what it’s supposed to be. None of the creepiness and tension ever comes across as intended. Rings is the definition of an unnecessary sequel: it adds little or nothing meaningful to the story, it whiffs at every chance it’s given to be unsettling, and to be brutally honest, no one asked for it, certainly not over a decade later. You won’t die seven days after watching Rings, but you probably won’t think much about it seven hours after either.

Pass it on or you'll die in seven days.

-Mike Stec