‘Member The Ring? The movie that single-handedly launched the short-lived J-horror period in the early ’00s? It was really popular.
Fifteen years ago.
In the soft reboot Rings, trouble comes to paradise when Julia (Matilda Lutz) and her boyfriend, Holt (Alex Roe), are separated by his going to college. When Holt mysteriously stops returning her texts, Julia goes after him and discovers him embroiled in a cult-like extra credit group devoted to studying an unsettling video tape which curses viewers to suffer seven days of hallucinations and then die — unless they can get someone else to watch. Julia watches Holt’s tape to save him, but experiences harsher hallucinations faster than anyone else in the study group and eventually discovers she can access an entirely different video. Ringleader and incredibly irresponsible anthropology professor Gabriel (Johnny Galecki) theorizes that Samara (Bonnie Morgan), the spirit who haunts the video, has selected Julia for something special.
Rings is garbage. It is a profoundly forgettable film. It is so unengaging, so uninspired and so up its own ass that it fades into the background even as you’re in a theater watching it.
It’s difficult to nail down any one failing point because the entire movie is such a miserable knot. Standing out in a bad way is the dialogue — writers David Loucka, Jacob Aaron Estes and Akiva Goldsman, between the three of them, don’t know how human beings talk — and the acting, which is terrible across the board. Lutz, Roe and Galecki each give their all in a competition to deliver the worst performance, constantly one-downing each other and lowering the ante just when you think it can’t get any worse.
Structurally, it feels exactly how you’d expect a movie with three writers would feel — riddled with cliches and devoid of any semblance of an identity. Boring, telegraphed jump scares that don’t fit into the plot come at a calculated pace. The movie holds your hand through its exhaustingly predictable plot twists.
That plot, unraveling the mystery of what happened to Samara’s mother, Evelyn (Kayli Carter), is essentially the only point of information in the movie. There’s no real character development or even establishment. Scenes are either setting up jump scares or furthering plot — and, once or twice, doing both — but it doesn’t matter because it’s so impossible to care about these cardboard cutout characters.
A place can only be as meaningful as the people who inhabit it, and movies operate on the same principle. If the characters are boring, all the worldbuilding you can think of won’t make the plot interesting.
It’s a sorry showing for a movie with such a rich heritage. The Ring was a sensation when it released in October 2002, birthing a long chain of copycats and codifying what eventually became its own era in horror. Its progeny, including a direct sequel, didn’t do nearly as well. Paranormal Activity re-established microbudgets as king in horror five years later, and it’s held the throne ever since.
With an original that relied on now-archaic VCRs and home phones and a flowering nostalgia surrounding it, Rings had every opportunity to update the classic. Those opportunities are ignored in favor of one of the blandest movies ever made. Hard, hard pass.
Leopold Knopp is a professional film critic, licensed massage therapist, syndicated columnist at the Lewisville Texan Journal and journalism student at the University of North Texas. Like Reel Entropy on Facebook, follow it on Twitter @reelentropy, and shoot questions to reelentropy@.