If crap movies carried penalties for inflicting torture on audiences, then Rings would merit a death sentence. This overdose of cinematic Lunesta takes the horror out of horrorshow – and the show is lost as well, since Spanish director F. Javier Gutiérrez doesn’t seem remotely interested in rousing anything in us besides all-consuming apathy.
Seriously, how do you screw up so bad when the source material is so fertile? Ringu, the 1998 Japanese horror movie directed by Hideo Nakata, scared audiences on a global scale with its tale of a cursed videotape that killed anyone who watched it. Gore Verbinski directed 2002’s American remake, which stayed true to the original version and offered the bonus of the terrific Naomi Watts as a reporter out to investigate the idea of VHS as a lethal weapon. I mean, you hit Play, take a look at stringy-haired ghost-girl Samara, and you’re dead in a week? WTF! The great Nakata went Hollywood himself to direct Watts in 2005’s The Ring Two, a follow-up that got in a few J-horror licks but buckled under the pressure to produce a safe PG-13 commercial package.
Which brings us, a dozen years later, to this chance to reinvent the franchise for the age of file sharing. Not a bad idea, really. But what a botch job, heightened by demo-worthy awfulness in directing, writing and acting. Alex Roe is burdened with the lead role of Holt, a dude who leaves home for college, breaking the heart of his high-school sweetie Julia, played Matilda Lutz. (Lutz and Roe – it sounds like a shady law firm.) They can’t breathe much life into these characters. But a webcam can, as we watch the lovers Skype every night to keep the hormones burning.
Holt is soon embroiled with Gabriel Brown (Johnny Galecki, of The Big Bang Theory fame), a professor who’s been secretly studying the video in question to unlock the key to immortality and offer up his students as human sacrifices. Galecki has a wicked glint that the script never allows him to put to use. Instead, we get the Attack of Nonstop Plot Exposition, a bore-you-breathless rehash about the urban legend of the ghost girl. Worse, precious little is made of new technology. A cameo from a slumming Vincent D’Onofrio as a blind cemetery caretaker doesn’t so much advance the plot as confirm its senseless underpinings. We’re meant to devour this demented drool as a set-up for the next film in the Ring cycle – like that’s gonna happen! The best review can be found in three words that Holt texts to Julia about the video: “Don’t Watch It.” Sound advice.