A lot of people work on a movie. They put in time and effort and blood (hopefully figurative), sweat, tears, whatever bodily fluid you can dream up. The worst movie, the biggest waste of time…it was still built by people who tried. That should never be forgotten or undermined when critically viewing a movie-yes, it’s designed for consumption and reaction, but it is also the effort of lots of someones’, and they committed days, weeks, months of their lives to it. And to all of the people who dedicated the precious moments of their fleeting mortality to Rings, I offer a salute. You did your damnedest, and that warrants acknowledgment. And now that it has been acknowledged, let me say: Rings is a truly terrible movie. It is an abominable turd that refuses to sink, it just sits there, taking up space and making absolutely no sense.
Let’s just dive right into it, shall we? The basic (in as much as that word will ever be applicable to a plot so convoluted it makes Russian nesting dolls look modest) premise of the movie is that Holt (Alex Roe) watches the video from The Ring (if you haven’t seen The Ring, the video is a series of fast, disturbing images, that when watched, causes the phone to ring and a voice to say “seven days”, as in the number of days the watcher has before death. Also, if you haven’t watched The Ring, what are you doing, get outta here and watch that instead!) as part of a college study about the permanent nature of the soul (this doesn’t make sense and will not make sense. Like the vast majority of plot details, it is discarded with intensely vague alacrity). Here is the first hint at the more interesting movie, lurking like a face-hugger in this movie’s chest and just waiting for the opportunity to pop out. The basic laws of The Ring mythology dictate that by making a copy of the movie to show someone else, the curse can be passed on to the latest viewer. Rings toys all too briefly with the moral and philosophical implications of this; the notion of knowingly passing a death sentence onto someone else would be sufficient fodder for an entire movie, and yet is given a mere handful of lines.
Ok, so: Holt’s girlfriend Julia (Matilda Lutz) watches the video to take the curse away from him. After she watches it, she begins to have visions (which, were this movie based in any sort of logic and reality, would have her severely questioning her own sanity, but don’t worry. No such danger) and the professor (Johnny Galecki), in charge of the study discovers a video within the video. Wait, what? I don’t know, that’s the thing. I wish I could tell you, but I genuinely can’t. There is never any explanation as to why Julia sees something no one else does, what makes her special, or even, for that matter, what the hell a video within the video really means. It is nonsense. But moving on. Despite the ticking clock (one of the elements that made the original so tense was the looming specter of the 7 days deadline. Here that is not so much discarded as casually forgotten), Julia decides to investigate further the girl in the video, who is, of course, Samara, and whose mythology was pretty thoroughly parsed in The Ring. Rings decides to scrap a great deal of that initial origin story and just layer on a needlessly complicated genesis to everyone’s favorite dark haired scowling little girl ghost. This is where Vincent D’Onofrio comes in, as a recluse who pretty clearly knows more than he is saying.
This plot isn’t great. However, to make this not-great plot work, every character has to basically make all of the wrong decisions. Every intuitive move they could make, they avoid (not the least of which is Samara is only able to manifest out of screens. So, novel idea, don’t have any around when you reach the 7 day deadline). Every character is an archetype and even then, very poorly drawn. Why, when Vincent D’Onofrio recognizes a symbol on Julia’s hand that she has not been able to determine the meaning of, does she not ask him what it is and why he is shaken by it? The answer, it seems, is because it could have lopped a solid fifteen minutes off the screen time.
Perhaps all of this could have been forgiven if the movie succeeded in being scary. I would have settled for cheap jump scares, but unfortunately not even these were offered in abundance.
To return to my opening thesis, however, that a lot of people contribute a lot to any given movie, it is absolutely necessary to mention that, to a man, the performances were very good in this movie. They well exceeded the source material. Vincent D’Onofrio is never not great-he simply doesn’t have it in him. And what did work about the movie worked almost entirely through the charm and charisma of Lutz and Roe. Neither of their characters are particularly well-defined, but they imbue them with a likability that makes the viewer at least not want them to be a gory sacrifice to Samara. I was rooting for those crazy kids, much like I will be rooting for those actors to be cast in much better movies.
Movies are by necessity subjective, all art is. There’s no way around that. This movie will have an audience, but it will not find it in those who saw and shuddered through The Ring, 15 years ago.