Film Review: Rings

Ooooh, boy. I have seen some real duds this year so far and we’re only hitting February. Yes, it’s the second month of the year and I can say that I’ve seen maybe two “quite good” movies and three “bad” ones with one “semi-decent but ultimately cluttered” (Live By Night) one. January is typically looked at as a pretty drab time at the movies but as we start to climb into February and March, it generally tends to brighten the outlook. Well, look no further than this stinker doodle (that’s right, it’s my term and I’m stickin’ with it): it’s the third installment in The Ring series that nobody was asking for in a million years. Let’s dive in, kids!

While The Ring followed a tale involving Naomi Watts attempting to rid herself of a deadly 7-day death curse after watching a videotape, this one… well, it actually does basically the same thing. Rings tells the story of Julia (Matilda Lutz), who says goodbye to her boyfriend, Holt (Alex Roe), who is going off to the wacky world of college. Weird things go down and Holt is suddenly unreachable, which we soon learn is due to the Tape from the original film. Incredulously, one of the school’s professors (Johnny Galecki) has started an inter-connecting series of recruits to make sure that as soon as someone has watched it and is doomed to die in seven days, they ultimately pass it on to a new candidate so that their fate is saved and the next person must pass it on and so on. What follows is an intriguing mystery into Samara’s (the girl from the Tape) past and… oh, what’s that you say? We pretty much already exhausted that in the first film? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

This movie was even worse than I predicted it would be but man… it wasn’t hard to watch. It reminds me of one of those films from the 80s and 90s that something like Cannon Films would produce but with higher production values. From the opening scene taking place on a plane, which is one of the most insane tone-setting scenes I have ever witnessed in a film. For example, the film opens with a male passenger nervously twitching and then a fellow female passenger telling him that sometimes talking to people eases your nerves. His opening icebreaker? “OK, have you ever heard about that tape that kills you seven days after you watch it?” OK, guy. After that horrific opening sequence, we soon discover that Johnny Galecki (aka Leonard from The Big Bang Theory) has a prominent role in the film. That blew my mind. How am I supposed to take anything he says seriously after watching him sporadically on one of the least funny and longest-running sitcoms on TV?

The acting is pretty much non-descript across the board. I couldn’t even tell you anything distinctive that I remember about leads Matilda Lutz and Alex Roe. They had to spit out some of the worst dialogue I’ve ever heard so kudos to them for at least attempting to act in the film but otherwise, they were pretty weak. Roe, in particular, had one look that he maintained for the majority of the film and Lutz fared slightly better in scenes where she had to show a high range of emotion. Johnny Galecki is hard to watch now because all I can see is Leonard but I guess he was fine, underplayed his role and doesn’t come out of this looking too scathed. I think he has enough F.U. money that he probably doesn’t really care how well-received the film is in general. Vincent D’Onofrio sadly shows up in a small role late in the game. I say “sadly” not because of his performance but because of the fact that D’Onofrio is such a great, respected actor and when he shows up in bad movies, it makes me very sad. Either way, he does what he can and always puts effort into his performances no matter how shitty the final product ends up being. That’s pretty much it for the acting except for one standout performance from Aimee Teegarden as Skye. It’s only a standout because it’s a mind-bogglingly bad performance that I almost felt embarrassed for her at times.

While the first 45 minutes of the film are insane and fast-paced enough to at least be enjoyably awful, the last hour of the movie trudges along at a snail’s pace as we play detective with the main characters to find out what’s going on with Samara, the Tape, etc. Here’s the problem though: The Ring already did that. We already know a huge chunk of the story, why Samara is doing this, her family history and how to pass it on. So what does this film do? If you guessed that it ignores most of it and creates some new details, you’d be mostly right. Even though the contents of the Tape are the same and we even get flashbacks to the original film, there are new details that had me scratching my head and wondering why Naomi Watts and Martin Henderson hadn’t already discovered that stuff in the FIRST FREAKING FILM THAT WAS RELEASED FIFTEEN YEARS AGO. Oh yeah. Dolla dolla bills, y’all.

As far as a horror film is concerned, I can honestly say that (as insane as the scene in question truly is) the opening scene on the airplane is probably the best pure horror part of the entire film. It is somewhat chilling and even though I laughed through most of it, at least if felt like the rest of the movie might’ve been a fun if somewhat ridiculous ride. I only wish that had been true. Amidst all the boring detective work, there is no short supply of really contrived “boo” scares and jump moments that did nothing for me and it didn’t really sound like it affected most audience members in the theatre either. That should probably be a top priority for a horror film, methinks.

However, there is something I want to say of a positive nature. There was a trailer for Get Out before the feature began and that looks like a really funny, scary and smart original horror film featuring some solid actors. So there’s that to look forward to…



Rating System:

Less than * (Actively offensive to one’s intelligence)

* (Brutal; bottom-of-the-barrel)

** (Some elements keep it from being awful but still not very good)

*** (Completely watchable; a rental as old-timers might say)

**** (Great film with a few things here and there keeping it from being perfect)

***** (Flawless; a true achievement)