Rings, the third film in the American Ring franchise comes more than a decade after The Ring 2. Like the first two films, Rings focuses on a cursed video tape, and the mythology surrounding it. Since it’s 2016, one might expect Rings to focus on social media, and the way a video can go “viral”. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Instead, the movie delves deeper into the history of the tape, creating a boring, disjointed narrative.
Rings follows two college aged students (Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz and Alex Roe) that become involved with the tape and the mystery of Samara. When Holt (Roe) begins attending college, he is convinced to watch the tape by his professor, Gabriel (Johnny Galecki). Gabriel believes the tape provides absolute proof of life after death, and he has created a club dedicated to watching and spreading it. While the tape is a sure death sentence, that death can be avoided if you have someone else watch it. Julia (Lutz) watches the tape to save Holt. After that she begins experiencing visions of Samara, the legendary girl from the tape. These visions, accompanied by clues from the tape lead Holt and Julia to the small town where Samara was born. The couple struggle to put the pieces together, before it’s too late.
Rings has some intriguing stuff in it. The idea of a club being built around the tape is a good one. The film also shows the innovative ways the tape can be viewed and shared. However, these aspects of the movie are minor and are never given enough time to fully develop. Instead, all of the emphasis is put on Samara and her history. The 2002 Gore Verbinski film did an excellent job of detailing Samara’s story, Rings only adds details that are both unnecessary and confusing. In the final act, Rings attempts to redeem itself by adding a plot twist involving Vincent D’Onofrio. Unfortunately, it falls flat.
In addition to the details of the story, the film suffers from a distinct lack of worthy characters. Julia and Holt lack personality. Their love story feels hollow. There’s just nothing there to make the viewer feel attached to them. The film would be much better, if it followed Gabriel the professor, and his obsession with the tape.
Finally, there’s Samara herself. She’s a creepy character by nature. However, Rings attempts to make her more menacing by adding excessive makeup and CGI. She’s reduced to a silly parody of the Samara/Sadako fans have come to know and love.
Rings isn’t a terrible film, it’s just boring. The plot is too tedious. On the surface it seems like the story makes sense, but it can be picked apart with ease. It does nothing to enhance or further the franchise. Rings played it too safe. Director, F. Javier Gutierrez attempted to copy the format of the Verbinksi film, but had little success. The end result is another sloppy, paint by numbers horror film.