Remember that thing we learned about Samara from “The Ring” and “The Ring Two”? There’s a bit more of the story we didn’t learn about her and we have to sit through a hundred minutes to find it out. Why? All for the sake of a surprise ending that apes James Wan, but packs none of his usual flare. Like, you know… an actual surprise. Truthfully, I saw the surprise twist coming for “Rings” about twenty minutes in to the actual film, and while I appreciate wanting to reboot the series for a new generation that only knows what a VHS or VCR is through history books or novelty articles on Buzzfeed, “Rings” just isn’t a good movie.
Granted it has good ideas, and a nice visual flair to it, but it’s just about the same old, same old with the entire premise. The writers and studio seem insistent on convincing us that this is a new turn for the series, all for a new generation, but never take pains to explore interesting characters, or devise an interesting tale. It’s once again “Remember what we learned about Samara? There’s more to the story.” We’ve done this once already, and it was lackluster and terrible. “Rings” is a poorly assembled pastiche of devices that try to turn the once unnerving mystery in to a death laden and exciting thrill ride in the vein of “Final Destination.” After the double prologue, we meet Johnny Galecki’s character, a professor named Gabriel who delights in shopping for an old VCR at a garage sale.
After trading quips with another customer about how weird it is to buy a VCR these days (actual line: “I prefer to call it vintage”), Gabriel gets himself in to deep doodoo when he pops out the dreaded cursed VHS tape and watches it. We then meet Julia who sees her boyfriend Holt off to college, and insists on skyping with him every other day. Soon their conversations become less frequent and she ventures out to his school when she gets a weird video message from a girl who maniacally rants to her about the tape. After that, there are a ton of story threads introduced that are never resolved. Gabriel’s implied affair with a student, character Julia’s insecurities about boyfriend Holt cheating on her in college, the cult like atmosphere that Gabriel creates around the VHS, and the weird angle that the VHS is somehow providing Gabriel with research about the idea of souls and their existence.
There’s even a drawn out scene where Julia battles a cursed watcher who tries to force her to watch the tape. When what we see unfold, happens only minutes later, there really isn’t a lot of point to the confrontation beyond filler and staging a scene involving a flat television that was good fodder for the trailers. “Rings” isn’t an awful movie, not nearly as much as “The Bye Bye Man.” I’ve always loved the idea of Samara’s tape becoming the ultimate viral video on the net, it’s just that the execution is terrible. For a movie pushing the “It’s a new generation of terror” pitch, it’s just another clumsy sequel that throws up a bunch of confusing plot points and never resolves them. After the credits begin, you’ll definitely find yourself asking a lot of annoying questions, rather than begging for more.