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Paramount Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 5/2/2017
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 5/1/2017
Sometime in the annals of horror films (I remember first seeing it in Halloween), it became a staple of the genre that the monster often didn't stay dead. Whether it was the villain springing back to life during the finale or a creature making an appearance in a subsequent film, we have gotten used to the fact that you can't get a good (bad?) monster down. This mentality has literally spilled over into filmmaking itself with the plethora of horror movie sequels which we see. Unlike seemingly any other genre, horror films will attempt to create a series at the drop of a hat and it's not unusual to see a Roman numeral behind a horror film's title. While this practice may be status quo, we sometimes see belated horror follow-ups, such as Rings, which arrives twelve years after the last film.
When college professor Gabriel (Johnny Galecki) picks up a VCR at a thrift store, he's surprised to find a tape inside. He watches the mysterious video and then receives a phone call where a voice says, "Seven Days". Meanwhile, Julia (Matlida Lutz) has seen her boyfriend, Holt (Alex Roe), but has been having difficulty contacting him. After receiving an odd message from a woman (Aimee Teegarden), Julia takes it upon herself to visit the college to find Holt. There, she discovers that Holt has become involved with a group overseen by Gabriel in which students watch the "death video" and then must pass along a copy of the video to another person in order to save themselves. This causes Julia to have visions which are unlike what the others are experiencing. She and Holt then journey to a small town to learn more about Samara, the origins of the video and to a way to stop the curse.
According to the film's trivia section on IMDB.com, Rings was shot in early 2015 and the release was delayed until early 2017. This surprises me for two reasons. First of all, being a sequel, one would think that the studio would want to get it into theaters as soon as possible for better of for worse. The Ring Two came out in 2005 and the window was closing on a generation which would be excited for a continuation of that film and its 2002 predecessor. (Although, I don't think many were clamoring for a sequel to the lackluster The Ring Two.) (Meanwhile, in Japan, where the series originated, there have been three Ring movies since 2012.)
Secondly, we have the film's quality. When a movie has been shelved, that usually means one thing -- that it's not very good. That's not the case with Rings, as it's better than a lot of other recent horror offerings. The first-half of the film is particularly interesting. The opening has Samara coming after a person who is on a plane. This scene is given basically no setup and, in retrospect, is actually kind of dumb, but it contains some nice visuals. From there, we get the notion that a group of college students are watching the cursed video as part of an experiment. While this portion of the film is under-written, that's an intriguing idea and the first appearance of Samara here is well-done. The second half of the movie contains some clever ideas, but it also falls into a very rote plot concerning the characters visiting a small town in an attempt to uncover the truth. Not only have we seen this before in many, many movies, includingThe Ring, Rings decides to add a new layer of story to Samara's background. This serves as the modus operandi for the third act, but it also feels incredibly unnecessary.
In theory, Rings is a sequel to the earlier American films. But, as it doesn't contain any of the same characters, it could easily be seen as a remake of The Ring. (Which was a remake itself, but we won't go down that hole.) I'm sure that fans of The Ring will dislike this entry, but, again, I found it to be quite satisfying. The overall story is quite stale, but there are some very clever ideas peppered throughout the movie which should entice those who admire movies which try to put a new spin on old ideas. Oddly enough, the motivating factor for the story in Rings is nearly identical to that found in the latest Japanese chapter, 2016's Sadako v Kayako (yes, the monster from Ringu fights the monster from Ju-on and it's badass). Rings offers the same old "watch the video and then freak out for a week" scenario seen in the other movies, which is honestly quite limiting, but it delivers this with good visuals and enough imagination to make it worth watching.
Rings needs to be kind and rewind on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The movie has an overall dark look, but the image is never overly dark and the action is always visible. The film's blue look translates well here and delivers a clear image. The level of detail is good and the depth is notable. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 5.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This is a very active track and nearly every scene provides some sort of subwoofer jolt or detailed surround sound effects. The track does a nice job of highlighting sounds coming from off-screen. The overall effect really adds to the ambience of the film.
The Rings Blu-ray Disc contains just a few extras. "Terror Comes Full Circle" (13 minutes) is sort of a making of, but it's all over the place, as it touches on the story, the characters, the film's look, the director, and the sets. The only interesting thing here is that Aimee Teegarden explains why the college kids watch the tape -- something which is glossed over in the film. "Resurrecting the Dead: Bringing Samara Back" (9 minutes) contains interviews with actress Bonnie Morgan and special effects makeup artist Arjen Tuiten who discuss the look of Samara and how Morgan brings her to life. "Scary Scenes" (7 minutes) has the actors discussing their favorite scenes from the film. The Disc contains fourteen DELETED/EXTENDED/ALTERNATE SCENES which run about 19 minutes. This contains Rick Baker's cameo, more of Julia's home life, and a lame alternate ending.
Review Copyright 2017 by Mike Long