Film Review: Rings, No Fear or Tension to be Found

Photograph courtesy of Paramount Pictures Photograph courtesy of Paramount Pictures I’ve said this countless times before, but having now seen Rings, the ill-advised second sequel to the impressive Gore Verbinski-directed remake The Ring, I clearly need to say it once again. Finding out where the source of horror originates in a horror film IS NOT EVER SCARY. I don’t care when Leatherface started wearing ties or what Michael Myers saw as a kid to make him homicidal. It doesn’t make the original films any scarier when we didn’t know those things, nor is telling a horror-movie original story retroactively in any way compelling since the sense of drama is erased because we know where it’s eventually going to land. I’ll give the makers of Rings a bit of credit: this is not a prequel, but a great deal of its story deals with digging through the past to find out what exactly happened to the young Samara that made her put a curse on anyone who watched a beat-up old videotape (now a Quicktime video). For those who don’t remember (or care), The Ring franchise is actually a remake of one of the preeminent Japanese horror films Ringu, about a tape that, when watched, results in the death of the viewer seven days later. But if you can make a copy of the tape and get someone else to watch that copy, the curse is lifted from the original person. Rings begins with a young couple saying goodbye as Holt (Alex Roe) goes off to college, leaving Julia (Matilda Lutz) behind to take care of a family member that I’m pretty certain we don’t see or hear about after the initial mention. But before long, Holt is in some kind of trouble after viewing the tape at the behest of a professor (Johnny Galecki), who has a system in place to copy and have other students take the curse off the ones close to death. Not wanting Holt to die, Julia watches his copy, thus saving him but condemning her unless she can get someone else to watch the tape. Without getting too deep into this nonsense that seems to involve making shit up as they go along, Julia decides to solve the mystery of the images on the video (which appear to have changed when she viewed it, as if giving her clues) before her seven days are up, sending her and Holt off to a secluded town from where where Samara and her mother are believed to be. Photograph courtesy of Paramount Pictures Photograph courtesy of Paramount Pictures Director F. Javier Gutierrez (Before the Fall) is very good at stringing together creepy images, jump scares, flashbacks, and “visions” that Julia has that pull her closer to what she believes is the true location of Samara’s remains. They are aided by an older blind man named Burke (a completely unexpected appearance by Vincent D’Onofrio), who was around when much of the original spooky stuff went down, and he spins tales of obsessed priests and a terrified town. Nothing that happens in Rings is particularly shocking or surprising. Still working within the restrictions of a PG-13 film (as the original film did, quite effectively, I might add), this movie doesn’t even have the suspense of waiting for the next video watcher to die since we abandon that concept early on. So what we’re left with is a subpar mystery being solved with clues that are ladled out just when Julia needs them. She always seems to interpret them correctly, and it gets her to the next step in her search. It didn’t take me long to go from irritated to frustrated to just plain pissed as the silly, pedestrian backstory unfolds. There’s no sense of real fear or tension to be found in any corner of this film, and when all was said and done, I realized that a great deal of time, money and effort had been spent boring me senseless. I really do hope that fans of The Ring (and maybe even The Ring Two) stay away from this one, but history tells me that probably won’t happen. I can’t imagine you won’t be as disappointed as I was.
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Steve Prokopy

Steve Prokopy is chief film critic for the Chicago-based arts outlet Third Coast Review. For nearly 20 years, he was the Chicago editor for Ain’t It Cool News, where he contributed film reviews and filmmaker/actor interviews under the name “Capone.” Currently, he’s a frequent contributor at /Film ( and Backstory Magazine. He is also the public relations director for Chicago's independently owned Music Box Theatre, and holds the position of Vice President for the Chicago Film Critics Association. In addition, he is a programmer for the Chicago Critics Film Festival, which has been one of the city's most anticipated festivals since 2013.