Story doesn’t ring true

Rings (2017)
PG-13 | 1h 42min | Drama, Horror | 3 February 2017 (USA)

Posted by – Matt Mungle

I am not a super fan of horror films and it is safe to say it is my least favorite genre. Well, bottom three at least. I have never seen them but have heard for years how incredibly traumatizing and frightening the original Ring movies are. Both the original Japanese release (1998) and the American remake (2002).  So I figured the new RINGS should easily keep me up at night, right? Nope. I slept like a baby.

The franchise is based around the ghostly character of Samara who kills you after you watch a certain video. Granted she is a creepy character and styled in that supernatural Japanese horror way. It is safe to say that Samara has some street cred and viewers anticipate a certain level of terror. But unfortunately this new installment leaves her on the side line way too much and focuses on a backstory that is plagued with plot holes, cliche characters, and eye rolling scenarios.

Rings doesn’t start that way though and actually offers an interesting premise. A college professor (Johnny Galecki) has discovered the mysterious tape and is using it as an underground social experiment. This alone opens up all sort of interesting options; but no one decided to use those. Instead they do a one-eighty from what could have saved the film and drive headlong into bad movie making.

You can’t really blame the actors for the downfall. They do what they can with what they are given. Julia (Matilda Lutz) and Holt (Alex Roe) are two young college kids who want to get to the bottom of the Samara legend. Julia begins having visions after seeing the tape and becomes a regular Nancy Drew. Holt walks around without a shirt and frowns a lot. Cast also includes Vincent D’Onofrio, who I always enjoy, as a reclusive towns person who may know more than he is letting on.

Where as the first half of the film had intriguing possibilities the last half has no hope at all. And in both of these Samara hardly makes an appearance. Sure we get flashes of her but nothing close to what is needed. She is the franchise. Let her lead the army. First time director F. Javier Gutiérrez seems lost in the muddle of bad plot points and never utilizes his greatest tool.

I learned a lot about Samara but it only detracted from her fear factor. We enjoy the wizard of Oz until the curtain is pulled back. Then he is just a sad old man. Granted we don’t discover that Samara is simply the local sheriff trying to scare off some meddling kids. But at the same time part of her pink underbelly is exposed and you don’t feel very afraid.

If this had been an original concept and a new character we could toss it on that huge mound of failed frighteners and move on. But this is a franchise built on past success. People always say, “That first Rings movie scared me so much.” The bar was very high with this one and the writers and creatives just fell short. Fans will be disappointed for sure and might even be angry that they didn’t get many thrills for their bills (I just made that up). I give it 2 out of 5 chicken fried steaks. When a movie doesn’t even scare me you know it has to be lame.