Cinematic magic tricks rarely benefit from repetition, even when they involve a dead girl crawling out of an appliance. When re-watching 1998’s Ringu or its (arguably superior) 2002 remake The Ring, it’s amazing to see just how devoted to the slow burn they were, gradually increasing the tension and building the mystery until arriving at THAT SCENE. It was a peak that the sequels couldn’t hope to match, no matter how many times they tried. Once dead girl started popping willy-nilly out of iPhones in 2012’s Sadako 3D, the dream was over.
Rings, the oft-delayed attempt to fire up the US franchise (2005’s The Ring Two is rightly removed from the narrative), can’t escape that familiarity, even if it does hint at a few interesting wrinkles on the modern state of the urban legend.
Beginning with a commendably tasteless sequence on an airplane, the plot follows a woman (Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz) who becomes concerned when her boyfriend’s Skype transmissions from college start to get a little... funky. Investigating, she stumbles into an underground attempt to reboot the old VHS curse for the #viral #video #generation. Vincent D’Onofrio shows up as a blind priest, which is something that most horror movies could use.
Director F. Javier Gutiérrez makes a valiant attempt to match the water-logged vibe of Gore Verbinski’s initial American installment, going thick on the shadows and hitting on a few genuinely shuddery images. (He has a thing for flies.) Unfortunately, the jump scares and plot twists begin to pile up as things progress, culminating in a remarkably weak justification for further movies down the road. Still, even if there are few surprises for fans of the series, the first half of Rings does locate enough of that uneasy nexus between technology and the supernatural to warrant a matinee.