Warning: This review may contain minor spoilers.
Written by: Daniel McDonald
Anyone reading from The Trailer Park series, is aware of my impatience and withdrawal regarding the lack of worthwhile horror in 2017 thus far. With the semi-exception of SPLIT (which is responsible because of James McAvoy’s Oscar worthy portrayal of a man with 23 separate personalities.). The fact that many of them speak of the arrival of a 24th entity, The Beast, who does indeed show up and is as terrifying as any horror fan could hope for. It ramped up an SVU episode like that was well made, but not terribly scary.
So when I checked my new arrival schedule, and found that another addition to The Ring franchise, called…well….everything but La La LAND. There is a bit of swampy confusion regarding the promotional title of each of these films, and the confusion (in almost every way) doesn’t end with RINGS, that opened in wide release 2/3/17.
Having a frame of reference based on the first film of the franchise, RINGU, certainly wouldn’t hurt the audience of this new film. I am not going to lay out the story or glory of visionary director GORE VERBINSKI’S American 2002 version which was warmly received by critics and a huge PG-13 money maker for its production house.
This newest 2017 incarnation plays as a more than decade long awaited sequel to Verbinski’s 2002 effort. Director F. Javier Gutierrez s tentative and/or clumsy vision, hampered-somewhat by the far too informed or vague on details screenplay by David Loucka and Jacob Estes (with a last minute Hail Mary polishing by highly respected Hollywood veteran Akiva Goldsman). Unfortunately this is perhaps the seed of the problem that makes RINGS such a confusing, difficult watch. Every cliché of the genre shows up, most of them unsuccessfully. The three witches from Macbeth came up with a more potent, at least somewhat frightening brew than this hardworking (or should I say “overworked”) HORROR effort of 2017.
To begin with, we open on a frantic young man’s apparently knowledgeable airplane departure trying not to become Samara’s next victim. Although this sequence is edited (by Steve Goldsman) to the point that action and confusion shake hands far more than they need to, the director and cinematographer, (Sharone Meir) help us gain a sense of fear and vulnerability in mid-flight, although Meir has a tendency to mistake murky for atmospheric FAR too much of the time. After some cleverly executed modern day touches, the plane meets its doom (off-screen).
We jump ahead to meet our hero (a charming Alex Roe) and heroine (an always on the verge of tears Matilda Lutz) as they prepare for his departure to school. Things then become a bit convoluted, so we’ll move ahead a bit to the pair of lovers reuniting in one of Holt’s classes, taught by the informative but troubled Gabriel (Johnny Galecki giving the film’s best performance ) who has darker connections to the air disaster from years ago.
At a local flea market Galecki finds an old VCR and purchases it. After he fiddles around with it, the VCR pops out a tape (du du du daaaa) thus giving the film a reason for even existing. I apologize if this post seems a bit “Debbie Downer”, and I’m not going much further with more narrative details, so if you do choose to lay out your 10 dollars, (all I can say is ” ouch”!) there’ll be some surprises for you to discover, even if those discoveries include a film in which even the “jump scares” aren’t at all scary (and I’m an easy target, I agree to take the ride the writer and director hope that an audience will. I don’t understand people’s choice to completely disregard a willingness of disbelief, needed to give the project a chance to succeed.)
As I’ve said before, sometimes with this genre, nihilistic endings, twists of fact and fate and cleverness or contrivances occur. These things can be completely refreshing, unexpected and VERY effective…when they’re done well and don’t feel non-organic or contrived. I’ll give you the opportunity to decide for yourself if you think this installment is successful, or a bit of a WTF? For me, I’m still waiting for that 2017 horror success (and I know it’s out there!).
Quick editor’s note: You can check out the box office haul the film has drawn thus far, right here.
I’m just saying….