Tape over

“What the heck is a VHS tape?”

“What the heck is a VHS tape?”

Director: F. Javier Gutiérrez

Starring: Johnny Galecki, Matilda Lutz, Vincent D’Onofrio

Rated 1.0

After seeing Ouija: Origin of Evil last year, and being blown away by the horror sequel, I had newborn faith in the ability for horror sequels to entertain me. With this newborn faith, I traipsed into my local cinema to see Rings.

For those of you who mix up your American remakes of J-Horror classics, The Ring, a remake of Ringu, was the one with the scary, contorted girl in a well and Naomi Watts. The Grudge, originally Ju-on, was the one with the contorted girl suffering from the universe’s worst case of vocal fry. That’s the one with Sarah Michelle Gellar.

A quick scan of this sequel’s cast reveals Vincent D’Onofrio has a role in it. That’s good, right? It also has Johnny Galecki of The Big Bang Theory in it. Not too shabby if you like unfunny, overrated TV shows, right?

So, OK, before the movie even starts, there’s enough to think the film has a fighting chance of being reasonably good. Then, the movie starts, and that fighting chance is defeated—quicker than Ronda Rousey in her last two bouts.

Rings is a slog from the get-go, a poorly conceived follow-up to what was a decent American remake of a great J-Horror film. (For the purpose of this review, we won’t discuss the American The Ring Two. Let’s just skip that one, shall we?)

Italian-born actress Matilda Lutz plays Julia, bright-eyed girlfriend to Holt (Alex Roe) who is going to college, after which they will conduct a Skype relationship that will most certainly feature Holt getting a little anxious. In one of their talks, Holt mentions a super cool teacher (Galecki) and gets interrupted by two fellow students forcing him to attend some sort of club meeting.

That club turns out to be a social gathering held by Galecki’s Gabriel, who recently purchased a mysterious videotape. He watched said videotape and somehow figured out he was going to die in seven days due to the viewing. I guess it isn’t all too strange he figured that out on his own, being that I figured out I would die in about four days after watching this movie, because its corrosive effects are attacking my liver, pancreas and sense of self. Don’t worry, I’m countering these effects with lots of vegetables, salmon and life-assuring walks with my dog.

Anyway, Gabriel figures out that if you make somebody else watch the tape, the curse passes along to them, and so on, and so on. So a bunch of college kids have a grand old time with his experiment, like some sort of chess club, passing on the curse and gathering to talk about it. Sometimes, they use computers and mobile phones to watch the tape, effectively taking the whole franchise into “the now.” It’s so hip, it’s scary!

Rings doesn’t stop there. In addition to the story of Samara, the girl in the well who will kill you in a week if you watch her shitty art film, there’s this whole thing involving Julia and her quest to free Samara, a quest that leads her to the origins of Samara’s mom and an old house featuring a creepy blind dude (D’Onofrio). This will all lead to a finale scene that rips off both Don’t Breathe and The Silence of the Lambs (fluttering moths are replaced by buzzing cicadas).

It’s also a finale scene that delivers a near deathblow to D’Onofrio’s career. Mind you, it’s a severe wound to his upper leg, so a good tourniquet might prevent him from bleeding out and save his career long enough for the next near fatal blow, which looks to be the upcoming remake of Death Wish co-starring Bruce Willis.

The movie was shot around three years ago and experienced various delays. This year looks to be the recipient of another long-delayed horror sequel, Amityville: The Awakening, which has been bouncing around for three years, as well. Oh, lucky day!

I wonder if Naomi Watts, original star of The Ring, was shown a script for Rings and asked to participate. I also wonder if that sound I hear when I go to bed at night—that distant sound mixed with the constant buzzing of cicadas—is the sound of a defiant Watts laughing uproariously.