Watch me: Horror sequel Rings brings murder-mystery into modern era


Kat Shambaugh

A student views the murderous video from the horror classic, The Ring, and its new sequel Rings.

Kat Shambaugh, Copy editor

As a throwback to Gore Verbinski’s horror classic The Ring, the sequel Rings debuted in theaters across the nation on February 2, bringing the demonic Samara and the infamous video into the modern era.

Rings, which serves as the second sequel after the box-office flop The Ring Two, chronicles a young woman named Julia (Matilda Lutz) who comes into contact with the video from the original movie — a mysteriously vague horror trip that, after watched, condemns the viewer to death in seven days if they do not copy it — after her boyfriend Holt (Alex Roe) joins an experiment lead by his professor Gabriel (Johnny Galecki). Julia’s presence changes the video, and, with the aid of Samara and a blind man named Burke (Vincent D’Onofrio), she uncovers more of Samara’s past to set her free, no matter the consequences.

The plot of Rings hearkens back to the original movie and its Japanese predecessor. A young woman must solve the mystery of Samara; at this point, it runs like clockwork. Still, director F. Javier Gutiérrez finds a way to renovate the story without letting it become too repetitive.

The use of modern technology — no more copying VHS tapes, now it all runs on a Mac — refreshes the plot, and queries into the existence of a soul, insights into Samara’s background, and further explanations of the video itself add an intriguing twist. Rings takes the loose ends left in The Ring and ties them into a new story, that, though almost a copy of itself, brings the same thrill as the first film.

As a self-proclaimed horror aficionado, and one that often finds it hard to suspend my disbelief, I find that Rings perfectly mixes fact and fiction. The movie incorporates supernatural elements, as the first did, in Samara’s control of technology, creation of the video, and the hallucinations she induces in Julia, but it bases itself around reality: a girl, killed by her parents, and with other tragedies in her past. In all honesty, the most unbelievable part of the movie lies in the characters’ ability to find a VCR in the first place.

Where Rings falters, though, lies in putting too much on its plate. It tries to explore the worlds of philosophy, the latest horror trend of women locked up by crazy men (à la Room, Split, and 10 Cloverfield Lane), the deadly effect of social media, and even tries to throw in a dramatic airplane scene, but it cannot balance all of these rings of influence at once. Parts of the movie, including the beginning which seems to have three distinct opening scenes, feel disjointed or unnecessary, as if the director had too many good ideas but not enough brain power to explore them.

Newcomers Lutz and Roe provide impressively good acting for the second remake of a horror movie (not a high bar to overcome). Lutz’s character hits a sweet spot of empathetic and intriguing, much in the same way that Naomi Watts did as the curious journalist in the first film. Roe plays the lead male without falling too much into overprotective boyfriend cliches, and Galecki, who found a niche in playing the geeky professor, serves as the logical foil to the movie’s supernatural elements. Furthermore, Burke showcases D’Onofrio’s penchant for acting in the genre and his ability to unsettle.

As critics chided the first for lacking scares, they will most certainly crucify Rings for the same reason (the film currently sits at 5% on Rotten Tomatoes); however, Rings, and its predecessor The Ring, do not need to rely on recurring jump scares or overwhelming gore. Cheap horror tricks do not set movies apart. The films succeed in their ability to pull together a murder-mystery with the perfect pacing and twists to keep the watcher interested and guessing. The Ring has always been about the story, and not about a Halloween-esque terror show; in the same way, Rings will not have viewers hiding behind a blanket, but it will give them a puzzle to solve, and, to me, the latter offers a more valuable use of an hour and a half.

Rings succeeds only if one sees its true purpose: a retelling of a murder-mystery story with an updated setting. It does not receive the highest score for originality — even the twist at the end reflects that of the original — but the added elements of mystery and the hearkening back to the world of the original movie give it a compelling pull for a lover of the first or of thriller in general.

For fans of the genre and those wanting a mystery to solve, Rings refreshes the franchise and screams “watch me.” Just watch out for a phone call immediately afterwards.

The Chant’s grade: B+