F. Javier Gutiérrez directs this American supernatural horror sequel to 'The Ring' (2002). When her college boyfriend Holt (Alex Roe) becomes involved with a group obsessed by the dark and mysterious video tape which is said to kill the watcher after seven days, Julia (Matilda Lutz) sacrifices herself in order to save him from the deadly curse by watching the tape herself. However, after making a shocking discovery about the contents of the video, Julia is left desperately seeking answers as she attempts to overcome a series of disturbing visions and find a way of breaking the curse before her time runs out.
“Life sucks when you can’t sleep.” “Yeah, tell me about it.” “Sometimes it helps to talk about it.” Story of the videotape that kills you, communicated from slick jawed ‘cute’ guy to meticulous, concerned girl. And this new chapter of ‘The Ring’ cycle begins.
1998’s Japanese original ‘The Ring’ was a fine film, and despite Naomi Watts’ attempts, so was the 2002 remake. And yet the story was always pretty thin. This needn’t matter if there is enough imagination floating around the production team to create an atmosphere of unease, characters you care about and exciting situations. Guess what? ‘Rings’ has none of these things. Of course, it brings back the old routine with some good effects – oily black water, upwards rain, the child-voice whispering ‘7 days,’ and yet these brief moments exist in isolation.
Self-assembly teens with choreographed intensity and catwalk emotion, dull as can be, pretty as paint. Can you act? Hell no, but if I smother my face in make-up and raise the occasional eyebrow, no-one will care. What about the dialogue? Shall we have any jokes, any natural discourse, any emotion? Nah, just spout some perfunctory slang, and add a bit of sexless titillation. We’re so pretty, we don’t need anything else.
It’s galling to read reviews that proclaim a certain film as the worst ever made. This isn’t the worst film ever made. But it’s the worst I’ve seen for a very long time. It’s competently put together, had a few million dollars thrown at it, and a soundtrack desperately trying to tell us something of worth is happening. And yet everything that made the original so unsettling has been reduced to diva teen drama, acting strictly confined to the school of daytime soap, the anaemic kind of thing you’ve seen many times before and will probably see many times again, as long as there is popcorn and boredom.
Even the much maligned ‘Ring 2’ (both Japanese and Hollywood versions) possessed at least an extension of the sinister spirit of Samara and her tragic evil. Here, whatever she has become is just another standard lurking presence. Her appearance stirs the dullness around it, rather than lifts it.
Usually, there is something of merit in a film. Even if there is perilously little, I still recognise that someone, somewhere, has probably lavished time and thought on the project and that is always worth consideration. I can’t imagine anyone involved in this giving two hoots, other than to justify a pay-packet.
There are rumours Ring films could become the ‘new’ annual Halloween release, like ‘Saw’ and ‘Paranormal Activity’ before it. If this Scooby-Doo-without-humour bore is anything to go by, it might well be better to forget it. If only I could forget watching this. Absolutely dreadful.
The best ghost stories work when you don’t have to think too hard about the mechanics of otherworldly spirits. Ring was very much a horror movie of its time, a last gasp of mystery from the VHS generation that still had some mystery for a cursed VHS tape. But now a director wishes to bring Ring into the age of digital files and streaming content. Questions that used to be laughs of overanalysis are now present in a movie that brings up new areas to discover and then never capitalizes on them. This isn’t the 2017 version of Ring; this is the 2008 version. But even if it were released back then, it’d still appear as out-of-date, lacking in scares and technologically illiterate as it does today.
Most of the rules remain the same. Samara’s tape of random spooky imagery will haunt the souls of those who view it for seven days before Samara emerges from the television to kill you. One can avoid the curse by copying the video and passing it onto someone else. But in the age of digital files, it’s now easier than ever to both watch the video and copy it for someone else to watch. The same rules on VHS work for movie files as well, but this brings up more questions about file formats, file size, encryptions and editing of the footage. I don’t want to think about these things, but the movie forces you to when the file can no longer be copied with Error 7777777 (get it?) and can still be edited for some reason.
The old tape is rediscovered by a college teacher (Johnny Galecki) who experiences Samara’s power first-hand and escapes her grasp. Intrigued by potentially making contact with the spirit world, his response is to create a special college project for students to take part in, believing he can unlock the secrets of the afterlife. The students watch the video, document what they see and copy the video for someone else to see. Why would students want to risk their lives for such a project? It could be they’re that intrigued by Samara or that the teacher is offering them an easy out from exams. Or it could be a ridiculous club setting he has created for his subjects where they can drink, listen to loud music and keep track of their seven days till death with counters on television screens. This club is located on a secret level of a college campus building, mind you, bringing up even further questions.
Julia (Matilda Lutz) stumbles onto this project when searching for her missing boyfriend Holt (Alex Rose). He didn’t want her to get involved, but it’s too late for that. She witnesses another student meet their ends at the hands of Samara and decides to sacrifice herself for Holt by watching his copy. But when Julia tries to copy the file, the computer won’t allow her to and the only way to stop Samara’s curse is to find her. One source of clues is the copy she watched which contains new images intercut in the footage that can be brought into Final Cut Pro and edited together. But, wait, if the footage can be brought into Final Cut Pro, why wouldn’t she just export a new version and make someone watch that copy? Or does Samara’s curse have special codec encryption? Or is it exclusive to Macs? See how messy this story is getting?
The movie opens up such a can of worms, only to shut it fast to favor the standard hunt for a body to lay a spirit to rest. Julia and Holt find themselves traveling to sleepy country to find out more about the spooky girl and uncover her body. Hallucinations and freaky visions occur throughout their journey as Julia slowly pulls back the layers of Samara’s buried pass. The scares are nothing all that scary (especially for being the most tired of jump-scares) and the mystery itself has all the mystique and tension of a Scooby Doo mystery. Actually, I take that back; Scooby Doo had more unique characters. There is almost zero character established for Julia outside of her use of Skype and her love of her boyfriend’s shirts. Lutz doesn’t have much to work with, but she doesn’t even perform well with what she is given, pointing things out that she sees to her boyfriend as though she were speaking with someone who was deaf and blind. Holt is a blank canvas as well and his college teacher is so boring with exposition. Every single thing in this movie revolves around understanding and finding Samara. Everybody loves Samara despite her having the least amount of screentime.
Samara can apparently enter through more than just televisions now. In the digital age, she can enter our world through smartphones, computer monitors and even radar screens. But, wait, there are so many other electronic screens she could pass through; drive-thru displays, fridges and billboards. What would happen if Samara exited a billboard as a giant ghost that crushes your soul? That’s a silly sight, but is it any more silly than having Samara rise out of a phone or crawl out of a radar screen?
And what of the internet? How does Samara work if her video can be shared dozens of times online? Sorry, but that scenario will not be answered until Rings: Viral and even then I can’t guarantee such questions will be answered.
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Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
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