Julia (Matilda Lutz) is in a long-distance relationship with her boyfriend Holt (Alex Roe), who’s just started college. The two Skype each other every night, until Holt disappears one night. When she can’t get in touch with him, Julia travels to the campus to investigate the clues she’s managed to find. She encounters a professor named Gabriel (Johnny Galecki), who’s heading up a research group that Holt’s taken part of – or, at least that’s how it was pitched. The “research” involves watching a copy of a VHS tape that features the cursed Samara in order to help others break the seven-day countdown the previous viewer has until they die. Once Julia finds Holt, she decides to save him by watching the tape herself – only to discover that she’s seen a unique video-within-a-video. To learn more, Julia sets out to discover the truth behind Samara.
“First you watch it. Then you die.” The tagline that’s being used for Rings accurately describes the feeling you might have while watching the film. Rings is a slog of a film, filled with no scares, but plenty of eye-rolling incidents. The film opens with a pair of prologues that work to set up the appearance of the tape in the film that at first seem barely connected; the first prologue isn’t even necessary. The second, though, involves Gabriel’s discovery of the tape, and this is where the film has some potential for a decent story: examining a world where people try to outlast the curse. But once Julia discovers what’s going on, the focus switches exclusively to her, and we’re left to watch her do one stupid thing after another.
There’s nothing scary about the film; the days of Samara being creepy have long since passed. And the acting here is…well, subpar is being generous. Lutz and Roe are bland and one-note. Galecki is perpetually bored. The only semblance of energy on screen comes from Vincent D’Onofrio, who certainly knows how to chew scenery. If only one of these things were a problem, Rings might be okay. But both fail, making it wholly unremarkable. Rings is nothing more than a shameless cash grab, trying to extend the life of a hit film from 15 years ago. There are better, fresher horror stories out there. Check one of those out instead.
Rings • Rating: PG-13 (for violence/terror, thematic elements, some sexuality and brief drug material) • Runtime: 107 minutes • Genre: Horror • Cast: Matilda Lutz, Alex Roe, Johnny Galecki, Aimee Teegarden, Bonnie Morgan, Vincent D’Onofrio • Director: F. Javier Gutiérrez • Writers: Jacob Aaron Estes, David Loucka, Akiva Goldsman • Distributor: Paramount