Gosh, Lego Batman sure was great! I can’t remember the last time I had so much fun in a movie theatre. I also can’t remember the last time I saw a long-standing property done such justice. There’s always a danger putting existing material into the hands of newcomers, but they succeeded spectacularly. Lego Batman was the best—oh, wait.
This is a review for Rings?
Well, that sucks, because Rings doesn’t do any of that.
Rings stars an Italian model and a sexy Englishman doing their best American teenage accents, and that also seems to be the plot. Vincent D’onofrio and the guy from The Big Bang Theory also join them for their scary adventure. No, not that guy. The other guy. The one who wears the glasses. He doesn’t wear glasses in this movie, though, because he’s doing serious acting! And sadly, he’s probably the best in the cast. Rings is extended masochism for anyone who chooses to watch it. If you have fond memories of the first film, then hold on to them dearly. Rings replaces tension with melodrama, horror with camp, and subtlety with soul-crushing blandness.
“There’s no stopping her.”
Let’s start again: Rings stars Matilda Lutz as Julia, a young woman forced to search for her college boyfriend, Holt (Alex Roe), after he mysteriously disappears. She eventually stumbles upon a conspiracy surrounding his professor (Johnny Galecki) and a mysterious killer tape. If you watch the tape, you have seven days to make a copy and force someone else to watch it, or you die. Naturally, the professor has been forcing his students to do just this to study the tape’s effects. It’s an interesting, if callously stupid, twist, even as it predictably blows up in the professor’s face. Julia and Alex are reunited and forced to search for clues when Julia sees a different scary tape for the first time. I say ‘forced’, but really, it’s unclear because Rings offers little in the way of motivation or stakes.
What it does offer is close ups, and lots of ’em! This is a strange thing to mention or nit-pick, but Rings is basically a hodgepodge of establishing shots and close ups. Yes, close-ups. Single shots of people’s faces, or hands on doorknobs, or obvious clues. Medium shots — you know, the shot distance seen in most film scenes ever — were apparently too subtle for director F. Javier Gutiérrez and cinematographer Sharone Meir. It becomes incredibly distracting and unpleasant to watch after a while. Most of this movie looks like it was shot through binoculars and aimed right up Matilda Lutz’s nostrils. And that’s not a good look, even on her.
“She will find you.”
From the opening pop-music theme song and Vampire Diaries cameo, it’s clear that this movie was made for younger audiences. The Ring was your parent’s lame horror movie — this one’s for YOU, gang! In this hackneyed attempt at relevancy of course they made the protagonists two unrelatable ultra-white underwear models. Julia’s curiosity and Alex’s stalwart devotion aren’t character traits — they’re just there to get us to the next scene. All of this leads to a pointless ‘gotcha’ ending that was obvious to everyone because IT’S THE SAME TWIST AS THE ORIGINAL. This is infuriating because Rings was marketed primarily on nostalgia for the original film. It’s a movie that insults you twice: by assuming you’re too stupid to recognize a fifteen year old twist, or too myopic to realize that the original existed at all.
The Ring (2002) was atmospheric and mature, and explored themes of motherhood and loss. It was about the relationship between children and parents, and how they often fail each other. Rings is about how hot people are important. There are no deeper themes about victim-hood or family, and no noteworthy scares to be had. Revelations about Samara, the ghostly antagonist, merely add to our confusion instead of remedying it. While the movie ends with a lukewarm answer to this question, it’s never said early on why we should care about these people. Julia is warm-hearted, but dangerously naive even for a horror film. Alex is someone we’re meant to root for, yet he’s complicit in some truly awful things. By the end of the movie, there’s nobody left to like. You just sit there, cheated, because they couldn’t do something new in the fifteen years they had.
“I can feel her pain.”
All of this would be irrelevant, however, if Rings was even intermittently scary or thrilling. It’s not. Since the narrative ticking clock is removed early on, most of the film’s tension comes from scary visions. Samara kills someone twice in the opening act, then not again until the end of the movie. Each of these early kills had the potential to show us something new, but didn’t. The first happened on a plane full of people, but cuts away before the death. What happened to the plane? What happened to the other passengers? Why the hell did this movie not answer those questions? I’ll tell you why: because Rings is a lazy film content to straddle the line between baffling incompetence and brazen stupidity. Is the problem ignorance or apathy? Nobody knows, and they certainly don’t care.
Honestly, The Lego Batman Movie was really good. If it’s a choice between seeing that or Rings, then it’s no choice at all. If however, you’ve lost a bet and have to watch this film, then you’ll know how it feels to have seven days of dread condensed into two hours of wasted life. There’s no ironic enjoyment or detached thrills, no exciting camera work or visceral terror. Rings is an experiment on modern movie-going audiences to see just how much shit we can swallow before it comes out either end. As a wise man once said, your ass is just the far end of your mouth. In a sense, that’s two rings right there. Perhaps that’s where they got the name.
My Rating: 3.5/10