When an umbrella popped open and the soundtrack responded as though the cursed spirit itself materialized on-screen, I thought “Rings” was going to be one of those kind of movies. You know, the movies that deliver their shock factor by assigning creepy crescendos to objects, like mugs falling on the ground or a friend patting the main character’s back, with the actual monster only making an appearance here and there.
But some movies acknowledge this. As a sort of wink to the audience, they throw in an exceptionally over-the-top scene to appease the viewers’ need for horror. This strategic move arrived right at the beginning in “Rings”.
Traditionally, the spirit of Samara Morgan will creep out of your television screen and kill you via the blow of her death stare seven days after watching her cursed VHS tape. This usually takes place in a room, but that was too basic for “Rings.” Instead, the movie opens with an airplane spiraling down as Samara inches out of every single passenger’s personal movie screen.
I almost rolled my eyes. Scenes that slowly build your dread and play with your anxiety—that’s what I’m a fan of. But after the airplane scene, I worried “Rings” was going to be a string of scenes that competed with one another by who could scream the loudest “boo.”
And that’s why the reinvented backstory surprised me. After the whole business of showing that there’s a terrifying ghost child out for vengeance was put aside, the movie revealed its true mission. This wasn’t a horror movie about fighting the ghost. It was a horror movie about fighting to get to know the ghost, an undertaking our unique heroine Julia (Matilda Lutz) takes on.
Yes, Julia is the classic “Chosen One” movie character trope. But once again, the movie knows this and uses the cliche to tease us. Is Julia exempt from the curse because Samara has given her an exclusive view of a new cursed video tape? Is this all just a ploy because by the third film, this movie series just needs a new way to kill off its main character? The movie turns into a Sherlock Holmes case, with creepy background noises and black-and-white video clips thrown in.
I appreciated the movie as a thriller, because that’s what the movie’s climax evolved into. It wasn’t a supernatural element that Julia was running away from … or so she thought. As a horror movie, “Rings” threw its scary moments a little too abruptly in my face (one of its most terrifying moments was when a pigeon flew into the car window).
But if you love a good mystery and background story, then “Rings” is worth the watch—if you can ignore the fact that the characters were watching the video on their Apple computers. Yes, a haunted spirit was taking advantage of modern technology to spread her curse. I’m not sure if that exactly sends shivers down your spine, but maybe it will.