Film Review: Rings (USA, 2016) is dead on arrival

After spending the better part of two years playing musical chairs with the release schedule, Rings arrives with a considerable thud to remind us how unnecessary certain sequels are.

Presenting a messy storyline that wants to both adhere to the formula of Gore Verbinski‘s (supremely superior) 2002 original The Ring and place its own stamp on the mythology of the series VHS villainess Samara, F. Javier Gutierrez‘s insulting scarer feels neither like a sequel or a semi-remake.

After a promising-in-theory-but-pathetic-in-execution opening sequence aboard a plane where the perennially angry Samara claims one of her victims (as well as the swarms of other passengers on board who are all essentially innocent) Rings initially appears like it might be at least trying to deliver a mildly interesting arc.  A college professor (Johnny Galecki, considerably removed from his more well-known Big Bang persona) has discovered the legendary video tape that, upon viewing it in its confusing entirety, kills you after 7 days.  Instead of reacting to this in panic (you know, the way normal people would) he opts to start up a club, one whose members are all willing participants to watch the cursed tape.  The notion of discovering what type of life comes after death is battered around the dialogue here, but the professor’s plans on what he intends to do with this experiment is never explained, so it’s ultimately left as just a semi-intriguing idea that’s thrown by the wayside.

The experiment side-plot really just acts as a segue into the main story, which sees one of the students (Alex Roe, who comes off as less of an actor and more as a catalogue model who can recite dialogue) investigate Samara’s history when his concerned girlfriend (Matilda Lutz, perhaps even less convincing in her plight than Roe) watches the tape.  Because there hasn’t already been enough backstory detailed through the last two Ring films, the trio of screenwriters involved here have opted to throw in such contrivances as a cursed tape within the original tape, new revelations involving Samara’s mother, and that the blind caretaker of Samara’s hometown (Vincent D’Onofrio) may be linked to it all.

Given that the previous films already gave us enough information on Samara’s tragic history, there’s nothing remotely interesting about what Rings attempts to reveal; and there’s only so many times that we can watch her climb out of whatever video screen she’s on before it becomes a bore. Any time the film hopes to scare its audience, it’s a cheap thrill we can all see coming, and the supposed “twist” ending that I’m sure is meant to evoke shock and awe is predictable and, frustratingly, non-final.

Those that have seen the original films will feel cheated by this obvious cash-in, and new viewers will hardly find anything worthy of investing their time in as it’s spectacularly un-scary.  Though thematically promising, Rings is a time-wasting title that doesn’t need a 7-day expectancy – it’s assuredly dead on arrival.

Review Score: ONE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Rings is in cinemas now.

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Peter Gray

Film critic with a penchant for Dwayne Johnson, Jason Momoa, Michelle Pfeiffer and horror movies, harbouring the desire to be a face of entertainment news.

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