RINGS. US, 2017. Starring Matilda Lutz, Alex Roe, Johnny Galecki, Vincent D'Onofrio, Amy Teegarden. Directed by F. Javier Gutierrez. 107 minutes. Rated M (Horror themes and violence)
The producers of Rings seem to be under the impression that audiences all over the world cannot get enough of the Ring stories. It is not Lord of the Rings – but, rather those phone calls that audiences became aware of in the late 1990s in the Japanese horror film, Ring and its sequel, then to American versions soon afterwards.
In case there are some in the audience who are not familiar with the ghostly video, featuring the emergence of a young girl and her sinister behaviour and look, which, when anyone watches it, they get an immediate phone call telling them that they will be dead in seven days, there is a prologue. We see a young man in a plane, explaining his situation to some young women, his telling them that his seven days were up, his fears, his bleeding nose, hiding in the toilet – but the plane then (perhaps limiting the screening of this film as an in-flight feature) goes into crash mode.
Now that we’re all familiar, more or less, it’s time to take the story further. Not that the sinister video is not seen in whole or in part many times throughout this film – and we live to tell the tale or write a review. By now, a university lecturer (John Galecki) who tinkers with technology, has seen the film, has not died, but has obviously made copies and passed them on. He has also begun a course at the University, enlisting the participation of students who see the film, make a copy and pass it on, and so survive – and, in case there are difficulties, he finds “tails” to protect the student or to become the next victim, not to die but to make a copy and pass it on…
In the meantime we have been introduced to Holt and Julia (Alex Roe and Matilda Lutz), a couple in love, he going off to the University and admiring the professor and becoming part of his program. While Julia is mystified, a young woman comes onto her computer screen screaming about Holt, which certainly disturbs Julia enough that she gets into her car and drives to the University, going to a lecture, confronting the lecturer, following him to his laboratory and rather shocked at what she finds. But she is even more shocked when she goes to the young woman’s apartment and finds herself locked in a room while Skye realises that her seven days are up and, no matter what plugs she pulls or what screens she smashes, the sinister Samara emerges and Skye dies, it looks like from fright.
At this stage, Rings does seem rather familiar but then it takes a turn and moves towards the development. Julia is no frightened heroine. Rather, she decides to watch the film, save Holt, but starts her own investigations as to what was behind the film. She then has several visions, about Samara, and visions of her pregnant mother. Julia is a young woman of initiative, tracking down locations, finding Samara’s grave (with some rather terrifying moments when she is locked inside, a feeling of her being buried alive), tracking down a church, retired blind man (Vincent D’Onofrio) who reassures her.
But she’s also told about a priest in the town, now retired, who seems to have taken on a woman and made her pregnant…
So, anyone interested in finding out what the consequences of this are (and there are a few shocks and frights), it is necessary to see the film.
Some fans have complained that it is not enough of a horror film – it does have some scary jump out of your seat moments but, on the whole, this is a film about Julia solving the mystery of Samara. And, just to be sure, the makers have set up situations where one might expect a sequel, or sequels.
Paramount. Released February 23rd.
Peter Malone MSC is an Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.