“Rings” fails to bring horror into the social media age

When “Ring Two” came out in 2005 I don’t think anyone figured there would be another American or Japanese “Ring” film coming out anytime soon. In a way they were right. It’s been 12 years and now the American “Ring” franchise is finally back with the film audaciously titled “Rings” because the plural of the word “ring” sure is scary, right?

Of course, for those who don’t know, the original two “Ring” films with Naomi Watts were American remakes of Hideo Nakata’s “Ringu” (1998) and “Ringu 2” (1999). The 2002 American version of “Ring” is often considered a solid entry in the horror genre but the film itself is not without its own problems. While the film was visually stunning and had a unique look to it the plot teetered on ridiculousness and vague plot explanation. “Rings” suffers the same problems all the while looking less appealing with much worse acting.

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Our characters are pretty drab and unentertaining, something pretty symptomatic in a lot of horror movies, as no one is particularly likable here. There’s not much characterization besides Vincent D’Onofrio’s blind preacher who is hands down the best part of the movie. D’Onofiro here is able to salvage some of this movie by playing into some classic horror schlock which adds some element of fun in an otherwise dull picture. Yet all these problems aren’t unique to this movie. “Ring” suffered them too. The more unique problem here is that “Rings” feels like two movies in one that don’t mix.

A good amount of the film incorporates smartphones and computers into the horror, something that has become much more prevalent since 2005’s “Ring Two.” Samara, the film series’ cursed villain, crawls out of phone screens this time and the original VHS tape from the prior two films has been copied onto computers. Copies of the film are passed along and involved in a research study conducted by a university professor played by “Big Bang Theory’s” very own Johnny Galecki (the dude that played Leonard).

Galecki plays a hip and edgy college professor that stumbles upon the cursed VHS tape at a thrift store because, well, he’s a hipster, duh. This is actually kind of a justified and funny way for the events of this movie to happen but it’s not played up for any laughs. What could have been a funny commentary on hipster-ism and the fact that someone would still hunt for VHS tapes could have been really funny if it were played the right way but this film is constantly over-serious.

When the interesting stuff starts to happen, as far as Samara entering the digital age, the film does a complete 180 and thrusts the characters of the film into a rural setting, negating any momentum or commentary on technology. It’s baffling and this is precisely where the movie feels like it’s trying to capture two distinctive feels in one narrative.

While it’s easy to write off “Rings” and simply categorize it as bad there’s actually a lot of squandered potential in the movie. The American “Ring” films were by no means cerebral but “Rings” had a few instances that could have been interesting. Imagine if “Rings” was about an ambitious researcher studying the nature of the haunted tapes in hopes of discovering the afterlife only for it to go horribly wrong. Soon videos of Samara are popping up all over students’ social media accounts as Samara crawls out of Twitter or Instagram to kill those who had seen the haunted viral video. In a sense that could have been a fun, a deadly spin on the “horrors of social media” yet nothing like that occurs.

Instead “Rings” just feels like a sequel that was made a decade too late and does nothing interesting with how much things have changed since the last movie occurred.

Should you watch it? Maybe

If you’re looking for a couple good jump scares I would hesitantly recommend this movie as it is leagues better than the hilariously titled “Bye Bye Man.”