New entries of film franchises that have taken an abnormal amount of time to gestate pose an interesting challenge for any filmmaker. Depending on the length in between it and the last film, an entire generation of attitudes and technology could have passed and thrown more than a few kinks into any studio pitch. Though Rings, the not so long-awaited and severely pushed back third film in the Ring franchise, depicts the VHS player as an object of vintage hipster curiosity in its second scene, the media-playing device has gone the way of Betamax.
So for the technologically inclined Millennial generation, it only made sense that the ‘Ring’ video be in electronic format, shareable all across the World Wide Web. That sort of global availability, escaping the limiting confines of a single VHS tape, should pose a larger threat and is a little scarier in concept. The problem is Rings does absolutely nothing not only to showcase any tangible amount of suspense or horror, but also justify its very existence with anything quarter-way memorable or inspired.
The film even gives you a glaring clue it will continue in such a fashion in its opening scene. Every genre has rules, and when those rules are broken for the sake of subversion, we rightly applaud these movies and their creators for providing such a new and reinvigorating vision. Such is the same especially for horror flicks, but when you start building a mythos around your central villain, there’s a certain logic you have to stick to lest the material appear as though you were adding new information without explanation or purpose.
We know that the ghoulish Samara appears from any screen that you can view the video from and kills you seven days after you watch it, but from the original film, we gather that she kills discriminately. If you’ve watched the video to completion, only you are doomed to die and no one else. In this film’s opening scene, an airplane passenger – on a jet plane with television screens on the back of the headrests that are not used for scares, don’t you know – who has viewed the video causes Samara to crash an entire plane of innocent passengers because of one guy.
It’s a horrendous moment of laziness from our trio of screenwriters for this film, and it’s only the first as they continue to weave a plot that is not only preposterous in its complete bastardization of the Samara legend, but also its clueless progression up to a final scene that represents a surprisingly defiant middle finger. The amount of narrative focus is disastrously abysmal, and by the closing stages of the final act, it seemed as though the writers had only just remembered what franchise they were writing for. The twists and turns they try to pass off as shocking are either painfully obvious or way out of the realm of sanity or plausible deniability.
The very least these persons can provide us are a few moments of tension in addition to the inevitable plethora of jump scares. Instead, all we get are a handful of cool shots that provide no atmosphere and a collection of nonthreatening jump scares indicative of a writing team bereft of even an ounce of creativity. Even the most formulaic of genre flicks have been occasionally creepy whenever it was needed the most, but all this team can muster are some archetypal steel blue and pale orange color contrasts paired with low key lighting, and expecting scenes to be effective with a director equally disinterested in capturing something in a way that’s compelling enough to keep the audience from falling asleep.
The acting is atrociously phoned in just to add insult to injury. Actors are the only saving grace for material too stupidly silly to briefly consider seriously, and any good actor knows a bad script when they see it. There is no sign of effort from any member of this film’s ensemble, however, including the talented Vincent D’Onofrio, whose mere presence provokes the odd laugh or two every time he appears on screen. Then again, what are we supposed to expect when a professional contortionist not given a single line of dialogue plays the most compelling character?
It would have been one thing if Rings was just dumb fun in its imbecility much the way last weekend’s Resident Evil: The Final Chapter played out. This is just vacuous garbage devoid of feeling whose cynical lack of heart, depth or vitality was just the right package for the beginning of February. Surely no one, or even a remarkably little number of people have uttered such blasphemy, but maybe this would have been better in 3D, like they originally planned.