After numerous delays, cast and director shifts, losing 3D, and reshoots, Rings, a sequel to the 2002 Gore Verbinski update of a Japanese horror film, unspools and detonates on impact. Miserably acted and haphazardly directed by F. Javier Gutierrez, Rings is nonsensical, boring and edited with apparent disdain. Fifteen years after Samara Morgan wreaked VHS havoc on Naomi Watts, she returns to claim new victims, because, you know, it never stops. Seriously, this movie is terrible. If Paramount was not smart enough to know that it had a fighting chance to turn a profit based on teenage viewers (and it did), it would have buried Rings in a vault under the studio. Profits are better than self-respect anyway, right? Gone is the atmospheric dread and striking imagery of Verbinski's film, and in its place is cheap digital photography and endlessly repetitive jump scares. The protagonists barely register, and even poor, mostly CGI Samara looks ready to throw in the towel.
In what could have been a cool opening sequence, Samara infects a jet on final approach, causing it to crash. Someone aboard saw the infamous video, and his seven days is up. The seat-back TV screens display the well, and Samara leaps from the cockpit monitors. The weird thing about the scene is that it feels like it was meant to play a more important part in the movie instead of just serving as the cold open. The film has two editors, believe it or not, and this sequence is cut so poorly that you do not have time to register what is going on. The action then cuts to the apartment of Professor Gabriel Brown (Johnny Galecki), who views the video after finding it in a thrift-store VCR. Suddenly, it begins raining, from the ground up, and the title rolls, another sign that some serious narrative shifting occurred in post-production. Cut away again to Julia (Matilda Lutz) and Holt (Alex Roe), high-school (yeah right, they look 30) sweethearts dealing with Holt's move to college. Once there, he begins ignoring Julia. Why? Because he is now part of some ridiculous experiment headed by Brown to prove the existence of an afterlife by watching Samara's video then passing the curse onto a "tail."
The most interesting idea here, and it's one the movie completely bumbles, is the viral medium that completely replaces the need for VHS, which was all but dead in 2002 when the original was released. Samara could grow more powerful than ever, which is hinted at, but instead Rings shifts to a boring origin story involving more unnecessary background information about Samara's father and ultimate resting place. Do better, Vincent D'Onofrio. Julia views the video to save Holt from doomsday, and discovers her copy has new footage. There's a cross, a flood, a burning body, and a dead bird. None of this is frightening, and this video, which really should have been scary, feels like a film-school attempt to recreate the atmosphere of its predecessor. Julia and Holt then work to save themselves/Samara and move forward without a revolving seven-day deadline. Plenty of swirled and green, twisted faces follow, as does spider-walking Samara.
What is good about Rings? I can't really think of anything. This is an unnecessary, uninteresting sequel made far too late to be relevant. The acting from the leads is dreadful, and each looks to understand exactly how bad this movie is. Gutierrez offers none of the slow-burn queasiness from the original, and instead leans heavily on CGI cicadas and mirror trickery. The story is all over the place, and it is very apparent that this movie was completely reworked in post. The experiment, Samara's origin and the new mythology never mesh, and Rings commits the cardinal sin or boring its audience. This is one of the worst wide-release films I have seen in years. Absolutely skip it.
This ugly, puke-green transfer is nothing to write home about, though most of the issues are source-related and not the fault of this HD presentation. The film feels cheap, and the soft, digital photography is prone to blurry pans, smudgy details and banding. Blacks push gray, skin tones are anemic, and colors are almost completely absent. There is a fair bit of fine-object detail in close-ups, and some outdoor shots are more attractive.
The 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix offers reasonable depth and surround effects. Dialogue is clear and balanced appropriately with effects and score. The horror-film effects do make use of the surrounds, and action bits, like the opening plane crash, make use of the LFE. French, Spanish and Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital dubs are included, as are English, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
This two-disc set includes the Blu-ray, DVD and both iTunes and UltraViolet HD digital copies. The discs are packed into an eco-case that is wrapped in a matching slipcover. For a limited time, you also get free digital copies of The Ring and The Ring Two. Terror Comes Full Circle (12:37/HD) concerns this film and its predecessors; Resurrecting the Dead (9:19/HD) looks at Samara this go-round; Scary Scenes (6:35/HD) is simply a reel of the actors talking about their favorite scenes; and you also get a number of Deleted and Extended Scenes (18:40/HD).
This long-delayed sequel to The Ring is one of the worst wide-release films I have seen in years. Dreadful acting, lousy direction, a glacial pace, and a choppy, nonsensical story render this film DOA. Even Samara would ignore this video. Skip It.