Do you think vengeful spirits hang around the afterlife sharing tips on how to be cryptic or what would be the best ways to annoy the mortal world? Back in 1998 Japanese director Hideo Nakata gave the world the chilling horror film Ring (Ringu) where an angry ghost would crawl out of television set to seek revenge, and then in 2002 Hollywood remade it as The Ring with Gore Verbinski at the helm and kick-started the J-Horror boom in North America, but then The Ring Two was released to poor critical reception as well as lacklustre ticket sales and almost killed it. Now thirteen years after the original film hit theatres we have a third installment which beats the dead horse of the series in ways that even Samara could never have imagined.
As in the first movie Rings has a cold open only instead of two girls discussing a creepy video tape we have a man aboard an airplane who has apparently watched the mysterious video and his seven day grace period is now up. At first it looks like we are dealing with a guy’s fear of flying until he eventually confides to a fellow passenger that he had watched a spooky tape and then received a chilling call from a girl stating he would die in seven days. I’m guessing we are supposed to assume this idiot believes being 20,000 feet in the air will save him from the vengeful Samara and that no one briefed him on the “Make a copy and show it to someone else” escape clause, but of course Samara does arrive and she pops out of one of the cockpit monitors.
The film jumps ahead two years where we find college Professor Gabriel Brown (Johnny Galecki) checking out a garage sale that apparently contains the property of the dearly departed idiot who died on the plane during the film’s opening. Gabriel purchases an old VCR which he later discovers contains a VHS tape simply labeled “Watch Me” and of course it is the “Death Tape” and after watching it Gabe’s phone rings and a voice tells him, “Seven days” and he then starts seeing weird shit like a fly crawling out his joint, rain falling upwards and the appearance of a stone well outside his apartment.
The movie then jumps forward again (we don’t know how far this time but does any really care at this point?) and we are finally introduced to our main protagonists; Holt (Alex Roe) who is bound for college and his girlfriend Julia (Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz) who will stupidly involve herself in these supernatural shenanigans. It’s when her boyfriend stops returning her calls or texts that she becomes concerned and when she gets a weird Skype call from a strange young woman (Aimee Teergarden) she decides to drive 500 miles to find out what happened to her man.
When Julia arrives at the college her boyfriend is nowhere to be seen; she pops into a lecture being held by one of his professors and low and behold but it’s good ole Gabriel from our second opening and he denies even knowing who Holt is. Julia follows Gabe to a secure floor that can only be accessed by a private elevator key that she just so happened to have found in Holt’s dorm room. The elevator opens onto what looks to be a standard office floor but at the end of the corridor there is a camera, a monitor and book titled The Samara Enigma: Neuroscience of the Afterlife. It seems that Gabe is leading a group of students in the exploration of the “Death Tape” and he hopes to prove that souls exist beyond death. We learn that students voluntarily watch the tape which they would then study and report on the weird effects that follow the viewing. But Gabriel isn’t a complete irresponsible idiot so he had set up a sort of “fail safe” where as the countdown to day seven approaches a fellow student would be assigned to the initial viewer and that person, or “tail” as they call themselves, would then watch a copy you made of the video thus allowing the curse to move on to them and spare you a gruesome death.
When Julia spots Gabe talking with the crazy woman from her late night Skype call she follows the girl out of the building, she confronts the woman and is told that she will explain where Holt is after Julia watches something. Three guesses as to what that is and the first two don’t count. Lucky for Julia she intercepts a phone call from Holt to this woman and is warned away from watching the video and thus Samara arrives and kills the idiot woman who was setting Julia up. Holt arrives shortly and explains he didn’t return her calls because he wanted to keep her safe, and I call bullshit on that. All he had to tell her is that he was working on some class project and that he’d be out of contact for seven days, mysteriously vanishing not required.
The rest of the movie works much in the same way as the original film did with our two leads trying to unravel the mystery of Samara; they study the video and try and deduce where the images came from, they will visit said locations and encounter weird people and dangerous situations and then Samara will try and kill them. The only added bonus here is that one of those people is a blind cemetery caretaker named Burke played by Vincent D’Onofrio and he brings a nice sense of menace to the proceedings, but overall Rings is a complete waste of time and is about as scary as an episode Goosebumps, and not a particular good episode I might add. Neither Julia nor Holt are particularly likable, Johnny Galecki’s attempt to escape his Leonard character from The Big Bang Theory fails miserably, and though the idea of people taking a scientific approach to Samara’s curse was intriguing the film quickly abandons that premise to have our heroes stumble around in the dark for the bulk of the movie.
As a horror movie Rings fails on pretty much every level as it brings nothing new to the party. When it comes to this kind of horror film rules are very important but in the case of the Ring series they keep changing them for the simple reason of being able to then churn out a couple more sequels. In conclusion if this phone rings don’t bother to answer it.
Final Thoughts and Spoilers:
• Did Samara crash an entire plane to get one dude? Talk about collateral damage.
• Julia’s copy of the video all of sudden has more video hidden in between the frames of the original so that we can get “new” creepy images for our heroes to investigate.
• An image of a burning skeleton leads them to believe that only burning Samara’s remains will lift the curse, but it doesn’t. Sam and Dean Winchester will be so disappointed.
• Samara is the product of rape yet for decades she seemed “happy” to kill any random person who saw her tape. Someone has to tell her how vengeful spirits are supposed to work.
• The man who imprisoned and raped Samara’s mother blinded himself to escape the reach of his daughter’s powers but when he is confronted at the end of the film Samara cures his blindness so she can kill him. Isn’t this something she could have done years ago?
• Like the previous films it has a hook ending where it’s revealed that “The horror is not over” and in this case its finding out that Julia is now the vessel of Samara’s rebirth and her computer sends copies of the video to all her contacts. Talk about your nasty computer viruses.
I certainly hope this is the end of this particular horror franchise but unfortunately as horror films are fairly cheap to produce it’s easy to see Hollywood trying to squeeze every last drop of juice they can out of this particular stone.