“She’s coming. There’s no stopping her.”
Seven days. That’s all that stands between you and certain death at the hands of one ghastly, ghostly pissed off child. Yes, that waterlogged apparition is back and intent on killing anyone who dares to watch her video full of nightmarish, disturbing images in the third and latest chapter in the frightening film franchise of The Ring. Of course, you could always find some other poor sap to transfer your curse to. Then it would be up to them to find someone else, and so on and so on. Welcome to the world of Rings.
The movie opens with a terrifying setpiece aboard a commercial flight where one extremely anxious passenger reveals that he has mere minutes left to his seven day countdown to death. For those newcomers to what the Ring is all about, it concerns a video where anyone unlucky enough to watch it dies a week after doing so. The perpetrator is the vengeful spirit of a young girl named Samara, who was murdered by being tossed down a well, and having taken seven days before finally succumbing to her watery grave. In Rings, a group of college students led by their professor are purposely watching the video they believe is a doorway to the other side. By getting as close as they can to the end of the seventh day, before transferring their curse to another, known as a ‘tail,’ they hope to prove the existence of the world of life after death. When Julia’s boyfriend goes AWOL after heading off to college, she gets caught up in this circle of horror and together, the two go on a search for Samara’s origins and a way to put an end to this nightmare.
To fully appreciate Rings, a bit of history is in order. The original Ringu was a 1998 Japanese film whose success spawned an American remake in 2002 starring Naomi Watts and directed by Gore Verbinski (Pirates of the Caribbean franchise). That film grossed $129 million domestically and nearly as much overseas, making it one of the most successful horror films of all time. It led to American remakes of other Japanese films and a sequel, The Ring Two, in 2005, which was helmed by Hideo Nakata, who had directed the Japanese original. In conjunction with that sequel, a short film was produced entitled, Rings. It served as a bridge between the two American films, leading directly into the sequel with two of its stars, and was included on special edition DVD copies of The Ring prior to the sequel’s theatrical release. Got all that? Many thought that the short film’s premise, that of a growing cult of people testing the limits of how far into the seven days they could make it before transferring the curse to another, made for a more compelling tale than the actual sequel. So, apparently, did those behind the franchise, who used that storyline for this current full length feature, Rings.
Directed by Spanish filmmaker F. Javier Gutierrez, the film stars Matilda Lutz as Julia, the film’s protagonist, with Alex Roe as her boyfriend, Holt. Though not especially interesting as characters, they do a good job working together as a team investigating the phenomena. The movie also stars Johnny Galecki (The Big Bang Theory) as the professor overseeing the study and the great Vincent D’Onofrio (Full Metal Jacket, Men in Black) as a mysterious blind man. Virtually unrecognizable is Aimee Teegarden (NBC’s Friday Night Lights) as another student terrorized by the tape. Her character is actually one of the more interesting ones so it would have been nicer to have seen more of her.
What Rings is lacking from its two predecessors is that strong mother-son bond that drove those earlier films. A woman fighting to save her child just has a more emotional pull to it than the boyfriend-girlfriend pairing that exists here. Early in the film, Julia asks why is it in literature and other forms of media it’s always the girl who needs saving. She ends up answering her question by taking measures into her own hands to protect her boyfriend. As with a great many horror films, the strong lead role goes to a female. It’s good to know that in a male-dominated society, and with that, the film and television industry, there’s one genre where you can turn to consistently and see a woman taking the reigns and carrying the whole thing. That’s been the case with all three American Ring films. Water, too, has been a recurring theme. And while the idea of examining life after death is the ultimate question in life, and the catalyst for the events in this film, that aspect is never fully explored here. What we do have are some creepy and unsettling images, from Julia pulling a never-ending hair from her throat to the visages of those falling victim to Samara to the ever-ghoulish looking Samara herself, especially when she contorts herself whenever she escapes the confines of a video screen.
With the age of videotape all but gone, Rings does manage to effectively incorporate that older technology (which in the scheme of things, really isn’t that old) with that of today with videofiles, e-mail, etc. Rings proves that meddling with the unknown can be a fatal mistake and that sometimes it’s better to just leave the dead alone. Seven days.