When film series’ dissipate it is sometimes difficult to tell whether one is watching a sequel, remake, spin-off, re-imagining or something else entirely. Horror franchises are probably the most guilty of doing this, with every decade spawning new icons for studios to saturate throughout cinemas. George Romero’s zombie/ dead series crossed the streams with sequels to the original trilogy and their remakes arriving simultaneously while classic characters are incessantly reworked for new generations. Now the Ring films follows suit with new sequel, Rings just arrived and Ju-on crossover Sadako Vs Kayako, still due an official UK release.
For anyone unfamiliar with the origin story: a young girl is buried alive at the bottom of a well. Her spirit possesses a videotape. Anyone who watches the tape receives a phone-call informing them that they have a week to live. The girl appears to the cursed cassette watchers seven days later, normally by crawling out of their televisions, and stretches open their mouths until they are dead.
The original Ring was an expertly crafted near-masterpiece which kick-started the J-horror phenomenon and several long black haired spectre rip-off flicks. Six franchise entwining follow-ups later and twelve years after US sequel The Ring Two, director F. Javier Gutierrez’s belated
Cardboard teen Julia (Matilda Lutz) is upset that her jock douche boyfriend Holt (Alex Roe) is moving away to college. The couple continue their relationship via Skype but, after a session ends badly and Julia doesn’t hear back, she travels to Holt’s college to confront him. Upon arrival, Julia discovers every other student denies her boyfriend’s existence but after further investigations she links his disappearance to an irregular lecturer (Johnny Galecki) and a sadistic spectre called Samara (Bonnie Morgan).
Rings’ starts creakily with perfunctory, drearily delivered dialogue during a poorly executed plane-set attack in which Samara seeps into the cockpit like a supernatural fart/paranormal smudge. Atrocious acting causes agonising eye-rolling and sighing loud enough to stifle screams (if there were any). Following the intro, a fright free hour and forty minutes of crude exposition/effects compromise an already wilting plot which flat-lines alongside attention spans. The boo jumps fail to raise eyebrows let alone pulses as Samara (in this instance) has the screen presence of flat static or a statistician discussing plastic.
A couple of interesting supporting characters turn up in the latter half but the story wanes into tired origin tale terrain, the likes of which were relayed in earlier sequels. Some evocative imagery: flash-cuts of insects, a fly crawling out the top of a cigarette, cockroaches, a snake swallowing itself, scrawling maggots and ants scurrying into the shape of a crucifix, doesn’t amount to much, as by that point most viewers would have sighed themselves to death.
Video cassettes are now considered retro/collectors items almost akin to vinyl, and less the mouldy artefacts found at car boot sales and land-fill sites. Where ghost frames, paranormal data, corrupt software and computer viruses could have been used to revitalise the Ring series a decade ago, they are sadly now hackneyed/overused in horror films like: i-Lived, iBoy, Pulse, Friend Request, Chatroom and Ratter. Incorporating tech-horror as a sub-genre seems redundant for a Ring sequel now. With a last act that resounds like a Don’t Breathe rip-off, in which new villains enter the ruckus, the story subsequently turns Samara back into a victim which neuters both her as a horror icon, and the franchise in the process.