Rings Movie Review
Rings Movie Review Metadata
You’re here for the review of Rings, so let me save you about 600 words:
It wasn’t scary, bits jumped the logic train and it was about 20 minutes too long.
Also, it wasn’t scary.
I was thinking it was better than The Bye Bye Man (2017), but the more I thought about it, the more I’m sure they belong in the “same wait for Netflix” category.
After a cold open that ignores the franchise bible (a whole plane to get exactly one person?), it’s 2 years before the video tape resurfaces in the hands of a college professor (Johnny Galecki, CBS’s Big Bang Theory) who begins an experiment that would get him hauled before any ethics board before his paper was even published. Enter Julia (Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz) whose lips were never not the perfect shave of matte mauve and Holt (Alex Roe), two crazy in love teens being divided by college and familial circumstance. Holt is 8 hours away at college and Julia is staying behind to tend to her sick mother. When Holt disappears, Julia abandons her sick mother (we never meet her so it’s totally okay) and Julia enters willingly into this race against certain death save her boyfriend and solve the mystery.
Julia begins having hallucinations. She will insist on calling them visions, because that sounds more “Chosen One” rather than “Doomed Participant”. She doesn’t question what she sees, just assumes she’s being contacted From Beyond because all the teen dystopian novels have a heroic Seer. By the way, there is no set up for this. It spontaneously happens, long before she even comes into contact with the tape. These visions lead them to a creepy little town with a population of less than 300 people, where Holt and Julia set out to trespass, vandalize, make everyone uncomfortable with their youth.
About this mystery – it’s not enough that the experiments being run by the professor get forgotten by everyone, or that Julia is the one that knows where the creepy little town is, it’s the visions she starts having for exactly zero reasons. The crazy random happenstance of Julia bearing the mantle of Chosen One isn’t explained, unless it was her willing sacrifice – but even that seems too far-fetched, since the explanation for everything else is practically spoon-fed.
Look – the premise is simple: watch a cursed video tape and unless you make a copy and show it to someone else within 7 days, you will die. The glory is watching the days count up to 7. The Rings writers and director got caught up in establishing an unnecessary backstory to set up unnecessary tension for a payoff that never, ever comes.
Step 1: Watch tape
Step 2: Watch life disintegrate around you for 7 days then either (choose one:)
Step 3: Die, or
Step 3: Make copy and watch someone else die
It’s not rocket surgery. This isn’t a drama, no one is going to Learn A Lesson. Movies in this franchise will never be up for an Oscar.
The “Final Girl”/”Chosen One” trope in teen movies has got to die, especially if you’re incapable of writing a strong Final Girl Character. I cannot tell you if it was the way Julia was acted or the sparse material they gave her to work with, but Lutz doesn’t have much to do but scream and walk slowly towards doors. There wasn’t enough of Julia there for you to root for her. Compared top any of the other movies in the Ring Cycle, you understand why the leads are adults and not teens. Future movies (if this one doesn’t kill that idea dead) need to go back to that formula.
Or not have 3 men write roles for a teenage girl. Either way will work.
Screenwriters and directors, if you want movies in the genre to be longer than an episode of Stranger Things, padding it with long shots and heavy breathing isn’t the way to do it. I’m not going to say I expect better from screenwriters Akiva Goldman (Practical Magic (1998)), David Louka (House at the End of the Street (2012)) and Jacob Estes (Mean Creek (2004)), but I totally expect better.
While not as completely by the numbers as Bye Bye Man (2017), we did have a Special Guest Star in Vincent D’Onofrio (Chained (2012)), whose gift of understated scenery chewing is always a delight. The film is beautifully shot, and the images are atmospheric and nearly pastoral, which isn’t exactly what you want in a horror movie, unless you’re Byzantium (2012), in which case I’ll take 3.
There are better ways to restart the franchise, and recycling footage from The Ring (2002) while shoehorning new images seemed hamfisted. I would expect three seasoned screenwriters to create a new exciting story without reinventing the wheel with a rectangle. I would also expect three seasoned screenwriters to be able to keep a storyline straight. There’s a huge plot point a town of 300 people conveniently forget and then remember before forgetting again.
Rings is a movie only a completist could love, and even then, just wait for it to stream on Netflix.
Rings is rated PG-13 for people dying horribly, college teens post-coital (no boobs), a vaguely sexual kinda rough strangulation scene towards the end, and a bunch of jump scares we could have done without.
Am I way off on this? Let me know in the comments.