In one of the featurettes on the RINGS home video release, the cast and crew try to convince viewers that the now infamous story of Samara is ready to be unleashed to a new generation due to the evolution of media. With social media and online access in the palm of your hands, Samara can now be accessed anytime and anywhere. She can now become the next viral video. Many horror fans are familiar with the story of Elisa Lam, the girl whose body was found in a water tank on top of a hotel. What helped gain her story notoriety is the security footage that found its way online of the last time she was seen entering an elevator, gesturing towards a third party that can not be seen. The footage is beyond creepy and I still see people post articles pertaining to it on social media. This kind of discovery is how I envisioned a new installment of THE RINGplaying out and seems to be the kind of film the cast thought they were making. RINGSdoes not go that route and instead plays it safe by utilizing VHS tapes and maybe one or two instances of copying a file. There is so much room for commentary and scare set ups to be played with, but, unfortunately, we are left with a what could have been.
For some reason, Johnny Galecki stars as a professor everyone is on a first name basis with. As Gabriel, he manages to turn a large number of students into a cult obsess with the cursed videotape from the previous films. He studies it endlessly and gets one student, Holt, to watch the tape. When Holt disappears, his back home girlfriend, Julia, received a cryptic Skype call from a girl looking for him. One to follow every red flag, Julie makes the long drive to campus where she is greeted by suspicious characters who can’t even come up with a good cover up. Their vagueness only encourages Julia to follow Gabriel where she stumbles onto Samara’s next victim and witnesses firsthand what the video can do. She finds Holt and watches the video herself to protect him.
Sharing the video after this becomes an issues as the file won’t copy anymore and there seems to be a hidden video within it. This new video promises a new reign of terror, but fails to live up to that promise as pretty much the same things happen as before. Like Naomi Watts before her, Julia researches the tapes and discovers there’s more to Samara’s story than previously assumed.
One of the many issues with RINGS is that the characters seem to be uninterested in the story than we are. Julia’s voiceovers are monotone and literally feel like she’s reading off cue cards when she was completing ADR. Galecki does what he can with what he is offered, but his role eventually falls to the side so the camera can focus on the young case because this is PG-13 after all. His arc with the college cult was actually the most interesting part of the film, but little is done with it and is quickly forgotten during the first act. Once the revelations start pouring in, the exposition feels dry and the surprises aren’t really that exciting. The third act falls into a more vanilla version of DON’T BREATHE which is way too recent of a movie to be ripping off already.
RINGS doesn’t do anything to really update the story except to include the occasional flashes of circles on cell phones. Samara still calls landlines and comes out of your TV. It isn’t until the final cliffhanger ending, that I won’t spoil, that it finally does something that I wanted right from the beginning. By then, it’s clearly too late. We all know the story already and didn’t need another movie to explain it to us again. The lack of self-awareness is what truly hurts it. The film ends up being too silly to be taken seriously and takes itself too serious to have fun with it.