The marketing tagline for Rings is: “First You Watch It. Then You Die”
Well, I certainly died a little in that screening.
Rings begins on an aeroplane, with a dude asking the woman sitting next to him “Did you ever hear about the videotape that kills you after you watch it?” Instead of responding with “What’s a videotape?”, she listens politely as he explains that he watched a videotape and that he is, in theory, going to expire in about 5 minutes. Another young woman overhears and asks if he made copies of the tape, but it’s too late: the black sludge and insects have already appeared, and it’s curtains for generic victim #1.
Jump to Julia and Holt, two teens saying goodbye to each other as Holt heads off to university. After not hearing from him for several days, Julia gets a really strange Skype call from another young woman who is also looking for Holt. She travels to the university to discover that Holt is part of an experiment run by the quirky vintage-loving Professor Gabriel, who has digitised the tape and is now showing the video to a bunch of kids so that – wait for it – he can prove the existence of souls. Holt and Julia then go and try and find the source of the curse, which inexplicably leads them to a small town inhabited exclusively by stock characters: a creepy Inn keeper who keeps creepy photos of creepy, long-missing relatives on the walls, and Vincent D’Onofrio playing a creepy local who’s only purpose is to be up to no good.
As redundant as VHS is as a media format, only without the charm and appeal of nostalgia, Rings is a rehashing of everything we’ve seen before in this franchise, with some extra cliches thrown into the mix. The absolutely incoherent plot is handicapped further by poor writing, an absence of craft, and seemingly no understanding of what makes a good horror film. It’s like a committee made a list of horror film tropes, turned it into a shot list and hit “record”. Narrative coherence, tension and suspense be damned!
The most frightening moment for me came at the end of the screening, when I realised that I would never, ever, get those two hours of my life back.
Image: Paramount Pictures