Rings: A Critical Review
(Full of spoilers because how do you actually discuss a movie without actually discussing anything pertinent to the plot?!)
(Full of spoilers because how do you actually discuss a movie without actually discussing anything pertinent to the plot?!)
This movie isn’t the movie it should have been. David Loucka and Jacob Estes conceived this movie by thinking, “Hey! Imagine if the video from The Ring were released digitally! Holy cow! It would be like a computer virus!” Ignoring that the entire premise of Kôji Suzuki’s novel is that the video is akin to a biological virus and already, technically, makes that point (I said technically because Suzuki’s virus is obviously not digital! Duh! But it’s still the same concept: technology as a virus that infects biology!), Loucka and Estes never actually make that movie anyway. Instead they simply remake The Ring but bookend it with two other films that would have been much better and more appropriate to the silly sequel title, Rings. Granted, there’s no way they could have made Kôji Suzuki’s follow-up, Spiral, into a movie. I mean, they could have if they wanted to lose millions of dollars asking viewers to believe that the video tape didn’t just kill people after seven days, but it also impregnates them so that they give birth to the nerd that died in the first book. At least I think that’s what happened. It was fucking weird and I read it over a year ago. Too bad I’ve yet to find a copy of Loop because I bet that thing is super batshit insane.
The movie begins with a guy on a plane about to time out of his seven days. He’s super scared because, I guess, nobody watches the tape and thinks, “That was fucking crazy. And a weird robocall that just said ‘Seven days’ immediately after? I’m hungry!” Apparently everybody watches it and thinks, “Oh shit! Does ‘seven days’ mean I’m going to die in seven days?! I bet it does because what else could that video have been about?!” You might be thinking, “Why would you assume everybody gets scared after seeing the video when just the one guy has freaked out so far?” Well, doubter who obviously hasn’t seen the movie yet: a woman on the plane also says, frightened, “I saw that video too!” And since the plane crashes and everybody on it probably dies, I guess they all watched the video at the same time one week prior?
I understand the flaws in my assumption, you jerk! You don’t have to “Actually!” me during my review! The guy who watched the video probably died of scared-to-death face while the other people on the plane just died from sudden impact face. Anyway, the opening scene doesn’t matter. It was probably tacked on because test audiences were all, “You know, there isn’t really any action in this movie? Maybe more high-speed action and less fighting blind guys in the dark?” Then some other audience member was probably all, “Oh! I know! What about a scene where somebody is looking through a keyhole and then — BOOM! — suddenly there’s a scary eye on the other side of the keyhole!” I’m pretending that’s how that scene wound up in the movie to help Loucka and Estes save face as writers. Maybe the third writer credited on the screenplay (but not on “story by”), Akiva Goldsman, was that audience member.
You know what? Stop actuallying me! Fine, the opening scene was needed to explain the entire premise of the death video. The man explains that if you watch this scary videotape, you die in seven days. The woman who also saw it was there to explain that you survive the curse by making a tape and showing it to some other sucker! So, yeah, I guess the stupid first scene carried some water. It was repetitive, Scott Lobdellian water but I guess every Ring movie is somebody’s first Ring movie!
As I was saying about the opening scene before other more important things that needed to be said cropped up, it’s most important purpose was to give the VCR that Johnny Galecki buys one scene and two years later a back story. He’s all, “I’m going to buy this old technology for some reason!” Aimee Teegarden, his student (you can tell she’s his student because she’s young and hot and he’s Johnny Galecki), says, “Whatever, dude! This movie is PG-13 and was also shot in the 21st century so don’t expect me to whip my tits out even though that’s what my character would do at some point during this movie if it had been filmed in the 80s.” Johnny shrugs, takes the VCR home, hooks it up to some old ass television that still uses AV cables, and watches the tape that’s still in the VCR. That’s totally believable because when I die, somebody is going to wind up with a Laserdisc player with Heathers stuck inside of it.
By the time the next part of the story takes place (a few months, maybe?), Johnny has survived watching the video, completely researched the hell out of it, and published a book with the subtitle “the Samara Effect” (or something like that. I only watched it once and I’m not too concerned with going back to check). So he’s a quick worker, ain’t he?! I guess all that time spent not being able to fuck his students wasn’t simply wasted with masturbation.
I’m not going to get into the main character Julia (played by Matilda Lutz) yet because she’s only really important to The Ring remake that comprises the middle section of the movie. This aside was for everybody who has seen the movie who might be thinking, “When are you going to get into discussing Julia and whether it was okay to get a boner during the scene where she’s in her underwear because she’s probably portraying an eighteen year old and not a seventeen year old, right? I mean, yeah, maybe it’s creepy but you saw that butt, right? Also the actress is probably an old person! Whew! I’m not a creep at all! Suck it, mom!” Also, I hope you saw those quotation marks because that indicates that somebody else said that thing and not me. I only transcribed it!
The first third of the movie should concentrate on Galecki’s extra-curricular biology experiment. He’s taking students, showing them the film, and seeing how their lives become completely fucked up from terror over the course of seven days before finding another guinea pig to watch their copy of the film and save them from scared-to-death face. A much better movie than the one F. Javier Gutiérrez chose for audiences would have involved an ensemble cast caught up in Galecki’s experiment. Maybe everything seems to be going okay for a bit until some student dismisses the whole thing and heads back home for a long weekend before being able to get somebody to view his copy. He winds up with scared-to-death face and everybody begins freaking out. The rumors fly all over the school and now nobody can find anybody to watch their film. You now have five or six main characters all trying to find a way not to die. Maybe one of them, suddenly realizing this shit is real, understands the terrible ethical decision and refuses to find somebody to take on their curse. Maybe one of them (probably the frat guy) forces somebody to watch their video without their consent. Maybe one of them (the hot looking, muscular nerd with the glasses) hacks the on-campus televisions and spreads the video across the whole school. Maybe the camgirl creates some clickbait headline about a great video showing her butthole but links to the video and spreads Samara’s video across the entire Internet (this crosses into the other possible movie Gutiérrez might have made but, in the end, it’s what Rings should have been all about anyway, right?) thus saving her life but putting millions at risk.
But no! What you actually get is dozens of students participating in this scary ass project but, in the end, leaving only Julia’s boyfriend at risk once Teegarden dies of scared-to-death face. What could have been a meaningful reason for using the plural of ring for a title winds up being a movie about a single ring: Julia’s boyfriend. And since his time is about up, Julia watches the video to save his life. This brings us to the middle section of the movie: The RIng Redux.
Either I haven’t seen The Ring 2 or I just don’t remember it. Hell, I probably don’t rightly remember the movie, The Ring, as much as I remember Suzuki’s novel. But I feel fairly certain the first movie and the novel retain the same basic plot structure. People watch this video. They die in seven days. Some other person who watched the video realizes the curse and must research it to figure out how to break it. In doing so, they save themselves almost immediately without knowing it when they enlist the help of a friend, making a copy and showing it to them. When they survive but their friend dies, it helps them to make the logical leap needed to understand how to break the curse. In the book, the main characters figure that to break the curse, they have to put Samara’s body to rest. So they go to the cabin, enter the well, get the corpse, take it back to her hometown, and give it a proper burial. Based on Rings, I’m guessing all of that took place one of the previous films. Which is why the middle part of Rings is just a retelling of that story.
Julia and her boyfriend head to Samara’s hometown, learn more about her than even Galecki discovered, learn her terrible secret, find her corpse, and give her, not a proper burial, but a proper cremation. That should do the trick, right?!
Well, no. Because the big twist is that Samara was trying to be reborn and Julia fell for it! Ha ha! Dumb dumb! If she’d only read Suzuki’s follow-up to Ring (no article on the book title!), Spiral, she’d have learned that the big twist was the whole being reborn thing! Also since Spiral was published in 1995, the big twist at the end of that wasn’t that the video would wind up on the Internet to infect everybody in the world. The big twist was that the main character’s published work was going to be turned into a movie which was now the real infection source for Samara’s virus. Millions of movie-goers would be infected! Ha ha! Dumb dumbs!
I wonder how often Roger Ebert wrote “Ha ha! Dumb dumbs”? Probably not enough! That’s why he’s no longer successful!
In trying to be a good and faithful protagonist, Julia just winds up setting Samara loose on the world. That’s a pretty good twist, right?! What the audience realizes if they think about this movie for any amount of time after exiting the theater instead of just saying, “That was a stupid waste of ten bucks!”, is that the real protagonist was the blind ex-priest who kidnapped a young woman and impregnated her many years ago, giving birth to pure evil. This ex-priest then proceeded to murder all eleven or so people who came before Julia, also trying to free Samara. That pervert murderer was the real champion! I knew I like him for more than creepily taking Julia’s hand and doing that weird finger thing on her palm that perverted old people do. I mean, he must have done that or else he wouldn’t have been able to read Samara’s Braille message she burned into Julia’s palm!
Although, I mean, why the fuck did Samara burn “rebirth” in Braille on Julia’s palm anyway? Why would Samara know Braille? Why would she leave a clue to her ultimate goal? Maybe it’s some kind of rule from the afterlife. You have to give the people you’re manipulating a fair chance at defeating your evil plans!
The final twist of the movie is that once Samara is reborn in Julia, Julia’s electronics begin sending copies of the movie to all of her online contacts. Julia’s boyfriend sees it happening and tries to stop it by unplugging the laptop’s power cord and online connection, somehow forgetting that laptops have batteries and WiFi connections. And thus the entire world is doomed to be infected. Of course, how many die from this infection? Maybe half the population of the online world? It doesn’t seem like the best way to kill everybody if the person is infected and saved in one online session. “Hey! A weird video! Let’s watch it. Fuck, that was crazy shit. Let me send it to my friends!” I guess since once person can spread the virus to more than one person, it’ll be harder and harder for people to find a non-infected person to watch their copy of the video. And maybe the point isn’t about death anyway? I think the point in Spiral was that watching the video actually changed the person’s DNA in a way that made them part Samara, or made her more powerful, or something. Anyway, it was less about killing and more about just infecting everybody.
The problem with this ending is that it’s the fucking ending. You’d think the whole point of a movie titled Rings is that it would be about huge numbers of people being infected by the video. Instead, only one person winds up endangered in most of this movie. The real movie only begins when this one ends. Estes, and Loucka should have realized this and thrown out the first draft of the movie. But since they didn’t, audiences were treated to an uninspired remake of the first film but with even more plot holes.
Like how this movie follows the adventures of — apparently — the only two young people who don’t constantly check their phones. Julia’s boyfriend disappears for six days after watching the video because...well, I don’t know why! He just leaves his phone under his bed in his dorm and fucks off on a ski trip or something. Nobody knows where to find him. Why? I don’t know! Nobody else participating in the experiment disappears. They all just seem to hang out in the lab — or is it a rave?! — with all the other participants in a hedonistic display of, well, college youthfulness!
Julia’s boyfriend’s excuse for not talking to her is that he didn’t want her mixed up in this experiment. Although the experiment wasn’t even scary yet. Nobody had died of scared-to-death face but somehow Julia’s boyfriend was taking it seriously from the start? And he thought not being in constant contact with his girlfriend would keep her safe? He definitely wasn’t smart because he was surprised to find out that she was worried about him, enough to seek him out at his college.
But that’s just the tip of his stupid iceberg. He also never checks his phone while searching for Samara, thus missing Galecki’s warning that Julia’s hand has Braille on it (not that this message would have helped because Julia and her boyfriend were stupid jerks). Plus when Boyfriend discovers that the blind guy was the priest somehow involved with Samara, he doesn’t call Julia to warn her. He races back to their bed and breakfast to warn her. When he doesn’t find her there, he doesn’t call her to warn her. He races to the priest’s house to save Julia. Now, maybe I missed Julia leaving her phone in the room. But even if I did miss that and that was the reason Boyfriend couldn’t call her, what fucking young person leaves their phone in their room? I mean aside from Boyfriend when he disappears for six days doing fuck knows what.
In the end, this movie missed out on everything that would have made The Ring modern and updated. I can’t fathom why somebody thought The Ring should simply be revisited as another version of the same movie. Somebody actually thought the twist computer virus at the end was enough of a great idea to greenlight the rest of this turd. How do you make a huge Hollywood movie like this with nobody along the way saying, “This ending here. That’s the movie. What’s with all this other stuff that we’ve already seen before?” I guess people instead read the script and gave helpful advice like “How about a scene where a woman pulls a long strand of hair out of her throat? That’s gross, right? Do that!” and “Did you write a scene where the female lead hops around in bed in panties that go right up her ass so that you can see everything? If not, add that! I’d say show her tits too but this is the age of Maxim, not the age of Playboy! And make sure wardrobe only uses tops that keep any signs of nipples from showing! This isn’t your father’s horror movie! No sir!” and “You took the advice of test audience member Akiva Goldsman and got that keyhole jump scare in, right?! Fuck yeah!”
Ugh. You know what I need to do? Go check with Movie Madness and see if they have Rasen, the Japanese film adaptation of Spiral. That shit will probably be insane!