Movies like Rings are what give the horror genre a terrible reputation. This beautiful, mysterious, atmospheric and pure format of filmmaking has become inundated with soulless, cash-absorbing sequels, prequels, and remakes which lack any of the dignity or excellence of their predecessors. But what makes director F. Javier Gutiérrez’s latest even more unfathomably terrible is that it doesn’t even warrant the ‘horror’ label. There is nothing even remotely frightful, surprising, or engaging about this film; it is entirely unable to tap into any single emotional current, unless you count boredom as an emotion, and in that case, this is a unequivocal masterpiece. Because Rings is so mind-shatteringly, eye-gouchingly, heart-stoppingly abysmal, it doesn’t even warrant the time or effort of a critic to sit, research, and pen a review.
So, what’s this unmitigated disaster all about then? Well, quite frankly nothing. For a film with SIX writing credits – including the talents of Jacob Estes, who wrote and directed the morally powerful child crime thriller Mean Creek (2004) – Rings has virtually no narrative whatsoever. Abercrombie teenagers watch the titular video, then the phone rings and it isn’t Dave from PPI Insurance trying to flog you something, rather Samara – the heartbroken and neglected soul who you know, loves murdering people – who gives you “seven days” before she makes you pull a ridiculous face and go all grey. What does Rings add to this formula that we’ve seen about fourteen times already across multiple continents? Well, there is some new still images in the video? Like, a bird, and a church. Oh, and Leonard from The Big Bang Theory is conducting “scientific experiences” by getting his students – apparently he’s a college professor (most likely with a degree in Absolute Flipping Moron) – to watch the tape, and then, ummm, get other people to watch it? Good experiment, bro. That’s exactly what all the other movies have done already.
Here’s the real problem with Rings, and indeed this franchise. It no longer makes any remote sort of social sense. Think back to Ringu (1998), or even Gore Verbinski’s impressive 2002 remake with Naomi Watts; most people still had, and used VHS players. DVD was a very new phenomenon. The process of watching the sketchy bootleg videotape, and then suffering Samara’s wrath across the week as you frantically attempt to copy the VHS footage (not the easiest thing to do) and actually convince another to watch it? Like, actually ask another human being to potentially – and willingly – die on your behalf? Yeah, that bred an atmosphere of anxiety, paranoia, and terror. It felt scary, and that is so mightily important. Now in 2017, EVERYONE is connected. To copy the video, you just right-click and select ‘copy’. Tension eliminated. To get another to watch it? Well, just tell The Lad Bible about this “bare jokes creepy video, fam”, and those imbeciles will upload it to some 15,000,000 in an instant. You are off the hook before Samara has even put the receiver down. “Seven days, love? Gimme a break. Get a haircut. Hashtag on fleek”.
But you see, Rings thinks it is smart – it isn’t, it’s absolutely brain-meltingly stupid, but alas – because the kids here struggle to copy a video file because it’s “too large”, or attempt to purchase a fated VHS player at a yard sale, because YOLO it’s totes vintage. Considering the talent working behind the scenes to render a Ring picture for the new age, the film so biblically fails to either understand the times, or worse, respect them. They could have used the idiots at The Lad Bible or whatever to make the video go viral; a whole world of people now caught under the insidious torment of Samara, as she crawls through iPhone screens as hipsters take Instagram shots of their Pumpkin Spice Lattes at Starbucks. That would have been cool. Almost like a zombie pandemic movie, but no, instead we get generic girl and generic guy who embark on generic journey to overcome generic villain who is misunderstood due to a generic backstory with generic post conveniences along the way. The film may be just over an hour and forty, but it actually feels about seven days in length, and that is due to the unrelenting tedium and lack of creativity. One of the worst terms a film critic can use is “boring” – it is such a lazy statement to make – but hell, Rings is boring, exponentially so, because it is as lazy as that word.
Universally, the performances are diabolical. There is more wood here than at Oak Furniture Land. Alex Roe – who plays stereotypical hunky teen guy Holt (even his name is cliché…) meanders through scenes looking like he got off the London Underground at the wrong station. He has zero weight in frame, and assists any attempt of drama or terror with clubfoot precision. Even worse however is our lead heroine Julia – played with ear-grating annoyance by Matilda Lutz. This girl cannot act. Regardless of how tragically bad the screenplay is, she has absolutely no clue how to manoeuvre in-front of camera. Her dialogue exchanges are 100% exposition, and a clear lack of experience in a leading role makes bad prose sound even worse, plus she fumbles constantly during Rings‘ larger – yet still titanically bland – set-pieces, such as an altercation with Vincent D’Onofrio (hope you are enjoying the Bahamas trip this role paid for, mate…) which is supposed to be profound and tense, but feels like a deleted scene from a Laurel and Hardy comedy. Aimee Teegarden of Friday Nights Lights fame is also briefly in the film, and she’s hot; that’s about it. Just really hot.
We can all laugh and joke about how abhorrent Rings is, but in truth, it is an extremely sad affair. Multiplexes will be laden with audiences flocking to see this rotting pile of faeces, which in turn will breed another, and another. Paramount Pictures will continue to vacuum your hard-earned money, in exchange for a product so immeasurably appalling and worthless. It is not a fair deal whatsoever. There are ‘bad’ movies, and then there are bad movies. This is somehow even worse…
Rings is out now on wide release in UK cinemas.