F. Javier Gutiérrez’s RINGS is the third entry in the American variety of THE RING series, which began in 2002 with a jaunt by Gore Verbinski. That film was based on RING from 1998, a characteristic J-horror flick directed by Hideo Nakata and based on a novel by Kôji Suzuki. Gutiérrez’s RINGS is a great deal removed from RING in terms of minor details like quality and tension and entertainment value. Also, the by-committee screenplay doesn’t engage and the acting is lifeless.
The tale begins as college professor Gabriel (Johnny Galecki) acquires a VCR once owned by a dude (Zach Roerig) who bit it via plane crash after seeing a peculiar videotape. The peculiar videotape is still in the VCR and Gabriel watches it. He is henceforth informed of a curse that proposes he’ll die within a week of watching the tape. In the meantime, Holt (Alex Roe) is off to college and leaves his sweetheart Julia (Matilda Lutz) behind to tend to her sick mother or dog or otherwise insignificant detail. He encounters the tape and goes missing. She heads out to find him and discovers the secret of the tape.
The story of RINGS is snarled like the tape itself, which is a nice piece of mangled baloney if you’ve never seen a horror movie before. Gutiérrez’s picture cuts through a ribbon of characters and sharply vacates and/or slaughters the most exciting people, like the pliable Skye (Aimee Teegarden). Instead, we’re left with the dullest couple on the planet. The performances don’t help, especially since Lutz can’t exhume emotion to save her life. Roe tries, while Galecki does the bare minimum. Vincent D’Onofrio is somehow involved as a visionless guy with a rocking beard.
RINGS is the sort of horror movie that feeds a succession of glitchy images into the mainframe and hopes it measures up. It doesn’t and it shouldn’t. Sharone Meir’s cinematography is as rote as it gets and the Matthew Margeson score is emblematic for a movie featuring a shaggy adolescent who skulks out of wells and plasma TVs. Naturally, RINGS was supposed to kick off an annual franchise in the style of PARANORMAL ACTIVITY. Time will tell if those plans bear fruit or die on the vine. As of now, you shouldn’t watch RINGS alone. Or at all. Ever.