In the entirely hypothetical ranking of various rings, the new horror movie Rings belongs somewhere far, far below the following: Wagner’s Ring Cycle, onion rings, engagement rings, The Lord of the Rings, the rings inside trees, the rings encircling the planet Saturn, Ring Pops, and the botched Olympic ring at the Sochi Games in 2014.
That Rings is not good will probably come as no surprise to those who’ve seen the trailer, or who know how horror franchises tend to go after the second film. Still, it’s disappointing enough for anyone who enjoyed the 1998 Japanese classic Ringu or either of the American films it inspired, 2002’s The Ring and 2005’s The Ring Two. Fifteen years after mainstream U.S. audiences were first introduced to J-horror, Rings is presumably making some kind of nostalgia play by bringing back one of the scariest monsters in recent cinema: the undead girl who crawls out of the TV and kills you seven days after you watch her videotape unless you make a copy and show it to someone else. But the story of Samara Morgan, once potent nightmare fuel, has become less scary with each new iteration, culminating in this new, ridiculous installment directed by F. Javier Gutiérrez.
Rings begins with two short, irritating backstories that shakily aim to set up the plot: a plane crash, and an estate sale in which a the deadly video tape is uncovered. But 20 minutes in, it’s still completely unclear how the movie will seek to expand on the Samara mythology. The protagonist is Julia (played by the Italian actress Matilda Lutz), whose boyfriend Holt (Alex Roe) goes off to college and quickly gets roped into a secret experiment involving the video tape, which was found by a college professor named Gabriel (The Big Bang Theory’s Johnny Galecki) who’s now seeking to prove the existence of the human soul.