When Ringu came out almost 20 years ago, and was remade a few years later, we saw Hollywood latch on to "J-horror" as the next big thing. The Gore Verbinski 2002 remake was called The Ring, and it led to a clutch of remakes of Japanese horror films (most starring Sarah Michelle Gellar) such as The Grudge, Dark Water, Pulse, The Eye, Mirrors and One Missed Call. The Ring Two came out in 2005 (both Ring remakes starred Naomi Watts) and it didn't do that well, so all future installments were shelved – until 2017 and this reboot, Rings. But they really shouldn't have bothered.
Twelve years after the last one, Rings just seems so unnecessary. The first Ring was a hit because at a time when graphic gore was all the rage in horror films (Saw, Jeepers Creepers, Cube, Final Destination, Hostel, Wrong Turn, Cabin Fever etc), it brought back old-fashioned scares: a slowly-building sense of dread, and a genuine ghost story. With its tale of a spirit trapped inside a videotape and whoever watched it would die in seven days, it was a real "ghost in the machine" story about fear of technology at a time when everything was changing. Back then, the internet and smartphones were still pretty new tech, and DVD had been slowly taking over from video for about a decade. Cut to now, and everything has changed – including the audience for a film such as this (which is probably why we haven't seen its kind for more than a decade).
Starring Italian model Matilda Lutz and Alex Roe (from The 5th Wave) as a teen couple, Rings starts off well. Roe's Holt (a classic American name if there ever was one) heads off to college and gets caught up with an experiment being conducted by one of his professors (Johnny Galecki) involving, yes, the videotape. But instead of tape, it's now a digital video file being shared around. When she doesn't hear from Holt for a few days (clingy much?) Lutz's Julia heads off to the college and finds herself embroiled in the mystery of the video's curse.
The biggest problem with Rings is that it is just not scary – well, not for anyone who regularly watches horror films. There's an occasional jump scare, and the woman playing Samara (contortionist Bonnie Morgan) is excellent, but all it does is rehash the sort of stuff we saw in the first two films. The cast all do a solid job – and it's always great to see Vincent D’Onofrio in anything, because he's always wonderful – but the material is fairly ho-hum and a bit of a letdown. This Ring is really only for those are massive fans of the series, or those who rarely watch horror films.
EXTRAS: The featurette Terror Comes Full Circle (12.37), which is all about revamping the Ring concept for a new, digital, generation; the featurette Resurrecting The Dead: Bringing Samara Back (9:19), which goes behind the scenes with the Samara actress, contortionist Bonnie Morgan; the featurette Scary Scenes (6:35), which talks to the film's cast about the frightening moments; and 14 Deleted/Extended/Alternate scenes (18:40), including an Alternate Ending and a Rick Baker Cameo.