Movie Review: "Rings" (2017)
As we headed into the theater I asked myself "Is this movie really a good idea?" I'd hoped it would be. The Gore Verbinski-directed version of "The Ring" from 2002 is a classic and is, in my not-so-humble opinion, better than the Japanese original (unlike "Ju-On" aka "The Grudge"). It's definitely an iconic horror movie for a generation and deserves the praise it gets (7.1/10 on IMDB, multiple Saturn awards, Bram Stoker Nominee for screenplay, multiple Fango Chainsaws, etc, etc).
The follow-up from 2005 found the director of the original Japanese series, Hideo Nakata, at the helm. It was like a beautiful old car with a shitty engine. It looked great and delivered on none of the premise OR the promise. At least the first one had some genuinely scary shit going on; the 2nd one used the same shit and it wasn't scary anymore. It was a borderline remake (5.4/10 on IMDB, Golden Schmoes Nominee for Worst Movie of the Year).
So, you can understand my apprehension going into the theater, right? Sure you can. My assumption was that it would be a feast or famine type of scenario. Then..........it did the one thing that I didn't expect (and have a hard time condoning)- it did neither.
This one is directed by F. Javier Guiterrez, a relative unknown of Spanish film descent. It does feature a couple of very talented actors in Johnny Galecki (Roseanne, Big Bang Theory) and Vincent D'Onofrio (Full Metal Jacket, Men in Black, Law & Order: Criminal Intent). Their performances saved this one from totally falling into generic teen territory.
Look, I get it. I really do. A PG-13 rating is going to make you the money that you need for a return on investment. I'm not faulting it for that because you can make a quality horror film with that rating (think "Drag Me To Hell", "The Sixth Sense", or even the aforementioned "The Ring").
For fuck's sake, though.......when this one begins it uses a Samara-induced plane crash as a McGuffin to move the film forward and give something different in the trailer to make you say "well, that's different". It didn't work for me, and I am the poster-boy for SUSPENDED DISBELIEF. Oh well, moving on.
I'll break it down in the what worked and what didn't style.
What worked: much more info about Samara's birth parents and tragic backstory. The usual kick-ass performance from D'Onofrio. Galecki as a kind of morally dead college professor (a darker role for him). It was visually striking when the lead girl has her "visions". What they uncover about Samara's past (and how it affected everyone around her) was a nice, little twist.
What didn't work: despite all of that it didn't really do anything different. Maybe you just can't with this story; i.e. maybe it only has so many directions it can go. The two protagonists were pretty but generically forgettable stereotypes of the MTV style. Everything that Julia "discovers" about Samara was delivered in far too much of a "deus ex machina" style. It was just too damn easy. It didn't deliver on the hinted promise of social media being a bigger player in the story (which is where it really could've hit a home run).
In short? It was nothing new. It thought about stepping out on a limb a time or two, only to step timidly back in and do what worked for the previous entries in this storied (but dated) horror franchise. I wanted to scream at this one to go big or go home.
At least if you fuck up in epic fashion no one can say you didn't give it your all. I can't give it more than a 4/10. For reference, the masses at IMDB gave it a 4.6/10! I found that a bit generous. If you're a sucker for the franchise in general and you think I was way off base about "Ring Two" then you'll really love this one, though.
I won't knock you for that. I just hate unrealized potential.