When Rings (2017) opened with a standalone scene on an airplane completely unrelated to the rest of the plot, I had a bad feeling. Unfortunately that feeling came true and the film proceeded to try a dozen different ideas without fulfilling any but the most mediocre.
Rings is the third film in the American series which started with The Ring (2002), based on the Japanese Ringu (1998). Rings is the story of a girl who becomes worried about her suddenly distant boyfriend and head to his college to find out why, only to become tangled up in a cursed video which kills you after seven days.
For all its flaws, Rings does try to expand on the plot of the previous two films, exploring the background of the antagonist and fleshing out the lore of the story. It even introduces new and interesting concepts that work well in a more contemporary environment, like copying video files instead of VHS tapes and an underground research club at a university formed by a professor who is obsessed with the video’s connection to the afterlife through Samara, the terrifying ghost that kills you after seven days.
The film’s biggest problem is that it never fully explores some of its best options. The relationship between the two protagonists is shoved aside to focus on the ‘plot’, and the boyfriend becomes two-dimensional very quickly. The sleazy professor who cares more for his research than his students is discarded for little reason and the underground research club, which I thought was a fantastic idea, is thrown to the winds in favour of going into the countryside to research Samara’s backstory.
There are some solid performances but these are too infrequent to put a dent in the film’s determination to ruin itself. Johnny Galecki (of Big Bang Theory fame) is great as the standoffish professor and Vincent D’Onofrio delivers the best role in the film, but neither are used well enough to make much of a difference.
Rare instances of good practical effects and interesting settings fail to hold up immersion-breakingly bad CGI, poor writing and lack of consistency. Rings managed to grind to a halt with an ending somehow worse than the rest of the film, and I found myself more than ready to leave the cinema. If you find yourself wanting to head out and see Rings, I suggest you find a way to stream the original instead.