Rings is not to be watched, it is to be experienced. I do not say this as a measure of praise, but, rather, ridicule. As a film, Rings lacks even a single leg to stand on. It will leave you riddled with questions – and not the fun kind, either. Was that supposed to be scary? Was that supposed to be funny? And my personal favorite: What in the fuck is the guy from The Big Bang Theory doing here?? So we are left to experience the film as something shared – communal – rather than ‘as a film’. It is a rare thing to watch a movie so bad that an entire theater begins hatewatching it a quarter of the way through. Rare, but evilly fun. I am truly grateful to the crowd for elevating this film above an hour and forty-seven minutes of nothing.
At one point, the two or three people still seriously engaging with the film attempted to sush the audience. In response, the entire room began to counter-sush, until no-one could hear the movie at all – an act of defiance against both the fuddy-duddies in the crowd and the movie itself.
This is all there is to Rings. This is its only redeeming value. It can only be enjoyed – and even then, only moderately so – as a piece of shared aggravation. The amateurish level of craft was pervasive, and total. There are whole scenes – whole entire scenes! – shot out of focus. Ineffective setpiece scares appear that have no relevance whatsoever to the plot. Cheap effects – cheap, even, for C-grade horror – barely register on the screen. Vincent D’Onofrio – King of Phoning-It-In – somnambulates through his every overly-desaturated scene. God, this movie is ugly – on its face and in its core.
Do you remember The Ring? The Ring is a fantastic movie. Naomi Watts shines as a too-investigative-for-her-own-good reporter, and the technophobic premise – evil psychic ghost-child murders via VHS – was (and is) such a wildly fresh idea that it transcends its absurdity. But, more important than any surface-level panache, The Ring was fucking terrified of its villain. Samara is unspeakably cruel. That is the point – this young girl is so full of ill will and malcontent that she refuses to let the torture she inflicted in life end upon her death; so she persists, albeit through roundabout paranormal methodology. When Samara showed up in The Ring, you knew some shit was about to go down. When Samara was on screen, you were completely, unequivocally fucked. When Samara came sliding through your TV, all greasy and bloated and rotten, there was an exactly 100% chance you were leaving in a body bag, complete with that ghoulish, fucked-up expression on your dead-as-hell face. In The Ring, Samara was the fucking boss, and everyone knew it.
Not so in Rings. There are whole swathes of this movie that don’t even deal with Samara. Even the sequences focused on her origins find ways to ignore or diminish her. When she does show up, it’s to go “boo!” and then crawl back into her analog well. I find this rage-inducing. Nothing turns me off from a horror movie like villain apathy. I can find enjoyment in even the lowest dregs of the Friday the 13th series, because at least every one of those films adores Jason Voorhees. We are compelled to horror not by gore, or death, or violence, but by the sick adulation of a good monster. Samara exudes evil in every grain of static – every frame of video – that makes up her grisly form, and that is why I love her. She is such a fully realized conception of hatred, and I’ll be goddamned if that doesn’t deserve some respect – something sorely absent from Rings.
I suppose I could leave you with a joke or a quip about how “you won’t die after watching this movie, but you’ll wish that you had!” but I won’t – because I’m not the worst, and because that wouldn’t be true. So, instead, I’ll tell you what will actually happen after you watch Rings:
You will walk into the light – ah, that sweet, soothing light – and blink the stunned disappointment out of your eyes. You will be shocked at how disinterested you feel. You will use the restroom, and wonder why you held it for the last 20 minutes of such a dull movie – why you believed in the unspoken promise of a thrilling climax (a promise unkept). You will maybe eat – depending on whether you saw the matinee or the dinnertime showing – and you will go home. You will sleep a fitful sleep, devoid of nightmares and terrors, and you will awake. And unless you had previously decided to write a review of Rings, you will remember absolutely nothing about it.