It has been over a decade since the killer videotape sent chills to us when we were in high school. I remember the Japanese version of “The Ring” scaring the living daylights out of me. The Hollywood version, which followed soon after, was immensely gratifying because it stuck to the Japanese essence (and Naomi Watts was brilliant as the dazed mother in peril.)
After all these years, the subject matter of that videotape, Samara (Sadako in the Japanese one,) the antagonist, makes her return to Hollywood. Julia (Matilda Lutz) learns that her boyfriend Holt (Alex Roe) has watched the famous cursed video – and willingly exposes herself to it to shift the curse to herself, only to find that the curse-originating spook Samara has special plans for her.
The third installment of the “The Ring” horror franchise, based on the famous Japanese films is less of a sequel and more of a remake. The ghostly girl (Samara) with long dark hair, who crawls out of the television, is not scary anymore.
What makes this outing the worse among its series so far is its imitation of the ‘Final Destination’ death pace and sensibility. People die in various ways before you bother to care and the uninspiring investigation that follows fails to arouse interest. At least the 2002 Naomi Watts film kept the mystery alive till the end, involving you in its story. Its eerie silence and unhurried proceedings allowed fear to creep in.
We see the same flashing images of death and decay, the same rotting corpses, the same dark and twisted spirituality that we’ve already seen repeated time and again. Oh, and the same dark-haired ghost girl crawling about creepily in search of her next victim, of course.
The idea to bring the old-school device at the heart of the original film – a cursed VHS cassette – into today’s world of smartphones, digital compression, YouTube, and video calls is intriguing, to say the least. And with more than a dozen years of gruesome history behind the curse, it makes sense that someone along the way would figure out a way to study it while somehow avoiding the deadly outcome that caught up with past victims.
Both The Ring and The Ring Two focused their mysteries on the tragic life of Samara, the murdered girl who repeatedly crawls out of her well to seal the demise of anyone who watches her cursed video. After starting out fresh, Rings ends up doing more of the same stick we’ve seen before, opting to once again send its protagonists on a relatively technology-light hunt for clues about Samara’s early years in the hope of ending the curse.
Rings also changes gears from the previous films by aging down its cast and effectively turning the film into just another chronicle of dumb teenagers making bad decisions.
This decision is almost as disappointing as the missed narrative opportunity with modern technology, as both the 2002 film and its sequel did a respectable job of making Naomi Watts’ protagonist seem fairly intelligent and capable. Lutz and Roe’s characters, in comparison, tend to be the sort who see nothing wrong with throwing open every foreboding door they come across and splitting up in creepy buildings for no good reason.