Since I couldn’t get enough of ‘00s franchise rebootquels after xXx: Return of Xander Cage (2017), I decided to see Rings (2017), but go in completely blind, without even seeing so much as a trailer or Rotten Tomatoes score. This sequel is the third in a franchise that started with Gore Verbinski’s 2002 remake of the popular Japanese horror movie Ringu (1998). The remake was not so much a horror movie as it was a mystery thriller with spooky supernatural elements and it was relatively enjoyable for what it was, but I never felt compelled to see the sequel that came out shortly after. I also shamefully haven’t seen the original, which, before I get ahead of myself, established the very simple premise that the remakes followed. By chance, characters come across a mysterious videotape with random disturbing imagery that results in your eventual death. This occurs when the watcher receives a phone call after the video finishes from a young girl telling you that you have seven days to live. Knowing when your death is coming is great horror and this variation on it is easily the best part of every film in the franchises. However, this was not enough to save Rings from the depths it had fallen to.
If I had to accurately describe what this movie is like, it’s definitely the kind of crappy horror that you always scroll past on Netflix and would only ever actually watch as some sort of sadistic challenge to yourself and your friends or if you wanted something on in the background. “Sadistic” is probably a strong word since this movie isn’t completely God awful, but it’s very boring and very misogynist. You realize this after the second cold open (yes there are two), when the movie finally introduces its main character, a girl who is very close and very in love with her boyfriend who is going away to college. She stops hearing from him after some time and goes to his college to not only find out what happened to him but also if he’s cheating on her. She then discovers her boyfriend is involved in a secret experiment run by a creepy biology professor about whether the cursed video is a link to the afterlife and the existence of a soul, which leads to an investigative journey by the couple meant to replicate the one from the first movie. This film is just textbook bad writing. I left out important details to explain as much as I could about just the basic set-up of the movie, and this was probably why the film’s release date got pushed from November 2015 to February 2017. Everything is very convoluted with no real substance, characters do things because it moves the plot forward, and there’s an over-reliance on jump scares. I was interested in the investigation in the mildest sense because I like the lore of The Ring and I just wanted to know where they were going with everything. Any enthusiasm is killed when the film repeats over and over scenes where characters are vague when asked questions but then give the information a scene or two later. That, and the girlfriend has hallucinations of Samara’s past brought about by the video that are poor attempts at exposition. The attempt at a spooky horror mood is appreciated in the form of two somewhat tense scenes involving the video, but the rest is jump scares and they’re always cheap and dumb.
The only thing worth being mad about is the film’s misogyny. The female protagonist’s existence is tied to her boyfriend’s and the only reason we’re given to like them is that they’re attractive and totally have the sex. She even watches the cursed death video in order to save her boyfriend in a self-described act of self-sacrifice that “anyone would have done.” The first movie wasn’t exactly that well written either but at least it had a likeable female protagonist. It’s an angering result of a bad, underwritten script, but it’s especially angering because they realize that the writing is misogynist and have that “anyone would have done it” crap and some dialogue where the boyfriend references the Orpheus myth and the girlfriend asks how come the guy does all the saving and not the girl. Like. Wow. You must have had a really high horse to grasp at those pretentious straws on the top shelf. You’re not wrong, but that doesn’t give you a pass on your bad writing by insinuating a role reversal, especially after you just got done sexualizing her as a character introduction. Also, anyone who thinks this movie is about viral media and the digital age is pretentious too. There isn’t enough substance or depth in this movie to warrant that analysis. It’s even hard to say that fans of the franchise would find anything meaningful in this. There’s some interesting back story, but the rules tied to the video are played very fast and loose and by the end are just thrown out the window. Like I said, when it streams just put it on for background noise.