***SPOILERS FOR ALL RING MOVIES BELOW***
Expectations are strange. I had no real expectations going into Rings. I think the original is a slick horror movie, with some great visuals, and is the cream of the J-horror remake crop. I, for the life of me, cannot recall a thing about RING 2. The deer. I remember there is a deer in it. That’s about it. So when I sat down to watch Rings, I had no real handle on what to expect from it. I always thought the American Ring series felt like it got cut short before things truly got wacky, while the Japanese series has two timelines, two 3D movies, and a crossover with The Grudge movies (which is a blast btw). So, whatever. Go ahead and reboot it. Let’s get nuts.
I say expectations are strange, because even though I didn’t have any expectations leading into the movie, I definitely had them after the movie’s first 10 minutes. Rings has a killer set up: Carter (Played by Zach Roerig, The Vampire Diaries, The rodeo guy from season three of Friday Night Lights) and Kelly are both passengers on a flight to Seattle who have seen the cursed Samara video tape. Samara comes for Carter while on the plane, causing it to malfunction and crash. It’s a fun opening scene, and one that opens up the world of the Ring movies in a way that’s pretty exciting. The first two Ring movies focus primarily on the Naomi Watts character, Rachel, and the events surrounding her watching of the tape. This opening sets up the possibility of introducing Samara to a whole new world of potential victims.
Two years following the plane crash, the cursed tape is found by Gabriel (Johnny Galecki from Big Bang Theory and Roseanne), a professor at a college in or around Seattle. Here’s where things get wonky, but still fun! Gabriel is the leader of a cult group on campus who is trying to prove the existence of the soul, or proof of the afterlife, or both probably. Gabriel gathers a group of his students called “The Sevens”, who watch the cursed video, film themselves, and then pass it on to someone called a “tail”. The “tail” watches the video, which saves the person who passed it to them, and resets the cycle for another seven days. This is all pretty convoluted stuff, but it’s a neat twist in the mythology and sets up something not quite as cool as a jet-setting Samara, but still pretty cool: A campus slasher featuring Samara as the killer. It’s kind of where the American Ring movies should be at this point, fifteen years into the series. There’s an audaciousness to that premise, almost like one of the Hellraiser movies where they shoehorn Pinhead into a script they had lying around, except this actually feels natural, and could place Samara in the pantheon of slashers. It doesn’t.
Earlier in the film, we are introduced to two young lovers, Julia and Holt. Holt goes to the Seattle college, has watched the tape, and only has twelve hours to live. Julia does not want this obviously, so she watches the tape and becomes his “tail”, sacrificing herself in order to save him. BUT, it turns out that the version of the tape that Julia watched had extra images in it (scenes that the cursed video maker decided slowed down the pacing of the theatrical cut apparently) one of which shows a mysterious woman claiming that they must cremate Samara’s remains. At least I think this is what happens. I’m going to be honest, this is about the point where I zoned out and started brainstorming the Samara campus slasher movie I was so excited about. Here are some of the ideas I wrote down:
- One of the fraternities on campus decides to pull a prank on their hated rivals by stealing their mascot; “Horace the Horse”. They take him to a frat party where he goes crazy and tramples a bunch of frat guys. A callback, for the fans, to the crazy horse in the 2002 film.
- A student goes to the library to research Samara. She uses one of the old microfilm machines to look at old Samara photos. Samara uses the microfilm machine to travel into the library and kill her.
- A group of young women, or men, are attacked by Samara in the dorm showers. It’s that part where her hands appear in the back of the person’s head, but a bunch more hands and a bunch more heads. Oh wait, that’s The Grudge.
- We could bring back that deer from the second movie.
- A college basketball game is coming down to the wire, but is interrupted as Samara crawls through the jumbotron.
Back to the actual movie though. Gabriel sends them to Sacrament Valley (great name) where we get a ton of scenes of Julia investigating things, and Samara backstory, including an introduction to Samara’s biological father Burke, who raped Samara’s mother and imprisoned her beneath a bell tower. This leads to my other favorite part of the movie; Vincent D’onofrio’s silly performance as Burke the blind priest. We should talk about Vincent D’onofrio for a minute actually.
This is a wacky D’Onofrio performance in a long line of wacky D’Onofrio performances. It’s also a welcome performance as it comes during the film’s very uneventful second half. Rings sees him doing a strange, deep voice, and saying things like “When you watched that video, you watched her suffer. Now you will suffer.” He’s also blind, so he wears sunglasses and always looks a little higher than everyone’s eye line. And he has a beard. On the D’Onofrio scale it probably falls somewhere in the upper half of silly performances, nestled up nicely next to his recent performance in the Magnificent Seven remake as “Burly guy with ridiculously high pitched voice”.
So anyway, Julia finds all of this out, and also that Burke blinded himself to avoid his daughter’s powers, so he attacks Julia. She pushes him down the stairs, then they are attacked by a swarm of cicadas, then Samara shows up and unblinds her dad so she can kill him, and then she kills him. There’s also an epilogue where Julia coughs up a bunch of hair and a cicada (lot of cicadas in the third act), and then the cursed video is accidentally sent to everyone in her contact list. This actually sounds pretty good now that I re-read it.
Rings didn’t go where I wanted it to go, or even where I expected it to go, but in the end it went a safer route which is probably where it was always going to go, and that’s fine. My ideas for it probably weren’t going to work either. For example, here’s some more:
- A coed thinks she’s sending a sexy video to her boyfriend, but it turns out to be the ring video.
- A hazing ritual at a fraternity revolves around a supposedly haunted well somewhere on campus. Maybe like that part in Old School where they tie those cement blocks to their penises, but Samara is there when one of them drops it down a well.
- Samara punches Richard Spencer in the face when he shows up on campus.
Yeah. My movie probably wouldn’t have made much sense.
CLASS CLOWN: This isn’t a very funny movie at all. In fact, it’s quite dour. So I guess this goes to Vincent D’Onofrio, even though the character of Burke is not funny and is really quite awful, he made me laugh.
MOST ELECTRIC PERSONALITY: Gabriel. This is because he’s a cult leader on campus and also because he gets electrocuted by a utility pole that falls on him.
MOST LIKELY TO TRAVEL THE WORLD: I’m gonna say Samara, but I wish she would venture out of the Pacific Northwest a little more. I mean, she boards a plane in this one. Come on, Sammy, there’s a whole world out there.
Thanks for reading, everyone! Don’t forget to check out our show this Friday where we talk about the Class of 1989! –Tim