When The Ring (2002) first came out, if you looked hard enough you could still find movies on VHS, so the thought of a mysterious tape that kills you seven days after watching it wasn’t so entirely farfetched. Now that we are in 2017, if someone were to find a mysterious VHS tape, well, they’d be out of luck for the most part, since I’d wager most of the US population no longer has a VCR. But Hollywood won’t let this stop their successful franchise from moving forward, even though it’s been 12 years since The Ring Two, this weekend is the release of the third film in the series, and quite frankly, I have to wonder if anyone really wanted this.
Samara is back, and she is hungry to take the lives of anyone foolish enough to watch the video, and as the film opens we’re in a plane along with a passenger who has seen the film and only has minutes to go before his seven days are up. While this is a fun scene that gave me hope for what would continue, I couldn’t help but feel that the scene was perhaps a throwaway sequence from Final Destination. Then, oddly enough, the film seems to start again, two years later when we see Gabriel (Johnny Galecki), a college professor, purchasing an old VCR. Once Gabriel gets to his apartment, he gets a surprise when he discovers a tape with the words “Watch Me” written on it. Just like all foolish characters in horror films, he watches the film and immediately gets the phone call.
The film then introduces us to Julia (Matilda Lutz) and her boyfriend, Holt (Alex Roe). They are a couple who are going to try to survive a long distance relationship while he goes off to college. It doesn’t take long before things get a little strange, and Holt stops returning her calls and messages. This of course motivates Julia to travel to the campus to see what is going on, and in the process reintroduces us to Gabriel, who is somehow still alive.
What gets introduced is something of a Samara fan club/cult where people have gotten together to research the tape and the urban myth. To survive watching the tape, Gabriel is supplying tails, basically someone else to show the video to and pass the curse onto them. I couldn’t help but feel this was an idea lifted from It Follows, but as they say, imitation is the greatest form of flattery. Julia discovers that Holt is on the death clock, and to save him and give them time to figure the video out, she watches the video, but there is a catch: the video she watches is different, and this takes her and her boyfriend into an adventure to discover what the video is trying to tell them.
There are some really cool ideas going on here. I really dig the idea of the VHS tape now being a video file you can share online. The way they use modern technology to uncover things gets pretty cool, but when you stop and think about what this vengeance killing spirit is doing, well, it doesn’t make a lick of sense. The film comes with a twist (don’t worry, I’m being vague, and you won’t know what I mean till after you see the film) and it just simply makes no sense and throws off the mythology of the already established films. I think it’s fair to say I absolutely hated this direction they took. But to go further about how things make no sense, when Julia is given a new mark (we see this is the trailer), when it gets explained I simply wanted to smack my head. Why would Samara do this?
It’s frustrating. The film throws a lot of good ideas at the audience but doesn’t seem to stop and think about how this will benefit the story. Oddly enough the film just felt dated; this felt like it belongs in the horror class of Scream, Urban Legend, and Final Destination despite how much they attempted to give a modern look and feel to it. I believe fans of the franchise will be divided on this one. You’ll have some who won’t care about the changes to the mythology and just enjoy the film. As for the fans that can go back and say they even have a copy of the original J-horror Ringu, well, I feel you’ll be a little disappointed.