So earlier today I finally saw Rings, the long belated third instalment in the American version of the Ring horror franchise. As you might expect from a regularly delayed, low budget sequel released twelve years after the previous instalment to little fanfare, it was not great. It was probably terrible. And yet I had an absolute ball.
The Ring franchise is one of my all-time favourites. The 2002 original American film was probably the first horror movie that really made me fall in love with the genre. It’s haunting, unsettling and about the most atmospheric film I’ve ever seen. Of course, being me, I swiftly devoured everything the series had to offer, from the batshit crazy Japanese films to the original novel series which starts out as horror and quickly turns into some of the most affecting, intelligent science fiction I’ve ever read. As a series, it’s the gift that keeps on giving because what you initially assume it to be isn’t quite what you get if you decide to follow it down the rabbit hole.
The American series has essentially lain dormant ever since the bizarre 2005 The Ring Two, and while the Japanese series, both novels and films, continued, I’m a little beholden to when the translations are released, meaning that new Ring content has been pretty thin on the ground for me, give or take a rage inducing attempt at watching the recent crossover with the Grudge franchise, Sadako vs Kayako. As such, the release of Rings was a big deal for me and going in to see it today, despite knowing it would almost certainly be awful, I was struck by just how excited I was when the flickering Dreamworks logo came up to the haunting strains of the familiar theme song.
And look, for the most part the critics were right. Rings is an odd beast; it boasts an entirely new (and significantly cheaper) cast to the previous two films and as such you’d be forgiven for assuming it was a total clean slate, but it so strongly relies on mythology established in previous films and so much of it is devoted to explaining loose ends left over from a couple of films that didn’t exactly give a damn about consistent story elements. So long since the previous films, which were never world-conquering classics, the logical choice for Rings would be to provide an in for people new to the franchise, but short of some convoluted explanation it doesn’t really bother. What’s especially curious is how much of the mythology it borrows from the largely forgotten The Ring Two over the more fondly remembered original film. And it does all this while beat for beat following the same template as the 2002 film, albeit in a far messier way.
And yet, I had a great time. From the aeroplane set opening scene to the actually somewhat creepy (if nonsensical) climax, Rings was an oddly nostalgic, fan service-y experience that felt designed for me to switch my brain off and enjoy it and not much else. It’s hard to see what kind of reception the filmmakers thought this film was going to get or how anybody greenlit this script over something, y’know, good, but I’m not complaining. The final scene of the film, while weirdly put together and stupid, left me grinning and I walked out feeling like I got exactly the experience I wanted from this film.
Rings is not good. But for the small category of hardcore fans of this strange, convoluted franchise, this strange, convoluted film skirts dangerously close to being great.
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