When the original 2002 American adaptation of The Ring was released, it was the head wind of many J-Horror releases (The Grudge, Shutter) long before it became a parody of itself. Director Gore Verbinski was able to create an atmosphere within the film that both felt refreshing and intriguing – the notion that there’s a killer video that would bring about certain death in seven days was not so far fetched in its style over an abundance of gore.
Skip ahead to Rings, which is held 13 years later and we’ve had noticeable technological advancements since then. Director F. Javier Gutiérrez is presented with a challenge of reviving a franchise that has both aged and been through the ringer as far as parody is concerned (see Scary Movie 3). The original tape is no longer confined to an analog casing, but now prevalent within modern technology. The plot revolves around Julia (Matilda Lutz) and her boyfriend Holt (Alex Roe), who is leaving for college. While he’s at college, he meets a skittish biology professor Gabriel (Johnny Galecki) who stumbles upon the original tape and creates an experiment that inflicts other people. Remember this, because this is the last time you will hear about this plot point.
There are two major problems when it comes to the third installation of the franchise. The movie itself contrives a confused narrative of trying to both advance the previous legend of Samara and build an extension of something new, so a possible sequel can be sustainable. The big plot point in the beginning of the movie is quickly discarded for an adventure to a backstory that is both unsatisfying and almost unnecessary. There was a reason that the first installment of The Ring worked – it took a centralized story and presented the curse for what it was. You felt like you were a part of the search for answers that felt natural. Not only does the movie not explain what happened before it, the essence of time is completely lost – and so, the chase.
Another problem with the film is that it careens through themes of previous horror movies like a truck speeding down an unplowed, snowy road in the backwoods. From the opening moments, you feel like you are not watching a Rings film, but watching another installment of Final Destination. It seems like within the the post-production process, everyone involved tried to include what worked for other horror films and stuffs it into an hour and a half. Rings is more enamored with keeping up with trends, that it forgets its own “time is working against me” element. The audience will forget this as well and aside from the conventional jump scare, there’s no sense of dread or pure terror. It all feels too familiar.
This movie could has been a refreshing rebirth given the ways the story could have advanced. Instead, like the original technology that the original American remake that made it’s mark in, Rings as a franchise finds itself left behind like the now-antique device that it was birthed from.
Main Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures