Intense work from Johnny Galecki can't salvage this bland horror 'threequel'
Kôji Suzuki's 1991 book Ring kick-started the J-horror phenomenon, which in turn inspired a series of underwhelming American retreads. A notable exception was Gore Verbinski's 2002 take on Suzuki's novel, although it was itself followed by a less-potent sequel. The novelty value of Samara, a vengeful spirit who attacks those who watch a cursed video-tape seemed to pale quickly, and F Javier Gutiérrez's 'threequel' arrives a decade late to the party with little new to offer.
After a dramatic opening depicting Samara killing an aircraft full of unwary travellers, Gabriel (The Big Bang Theory's Johnny Galecki) buys an old VCR at a flea market and discovers a VHS tape which belonged to one of the doomed passengers. He begins a clandestine academic investigation of the rules that govern Samara's curse, which usually leads to murky hallucinations and an unpleasant death within seven days. One of Gabriel's students Holt (Alex Roe) is in line to be the next victim, but his girlfriend Julia (Matilda Lutz) decides to save him by watching the cursed footage. In doing so she discovers a secret film-within-the-film, images providing her with the vital clues she requires to discover the origins of Samara before the week is out.
Horror sequels don't have to be bland cash-ins, as recent entries in the Conjuring and Ouija cycles have proved, but Rings unwisely sells out the premise of the original by creating a sympathetic backstory for Samara that drains all the tension from the film. With forgettable work from most of the cast, minor pleasures come from the short bursts of freaky digital imagery and from Galecki's improbably intense performance.
As well as committing the cardinal sin of showing its final scene in the trailer, Rings just doesn't do enough to justify a revival of this particular franchise. In the absence of any fresh ideas, it might be wise to let dear Samara finally rest in peace.
General release from Fri 3 Feb.