Julia (Matilda Lutz) learns that her boyfriend Holt (Alex Roe) has watched the famous cursed video – and willingly exposes herself to it to shift the curse to herself, only to find that the curse-originating spook Samara has special plans for her.
It’s over a decade since the J-horror remake craze died with The Ring Two, though Sadako – the original Ring spectre – has remained active in Japan. Despite imaginative direction from F. Javier Gutierrez, whose Spanish end-of-the-world movie Tres Dias/Before the Fall is excellent, this mess isn’t likely to reboot or revive the American franchise.
The plot stutters as if radically different Ring scripts were commissioned and then shuffled together to justify creepy set-pieces without giving thought to the collapsing storyline (a key image on that tape is a snake swallowing itself) or engaging characters. Before the credits, we get two different prologues: a mass break-out by Sadako substitute Samara on a plane and a subtler, effective haunting sequence as academic Gabriel (Johnny Galecki) finds the fatal tape in a junk shop VCR and is beset by phenomena (rain falling upwards, a fly hatching from his lit joint). Then, however, the film brings on two great-looking, dull protagonists – Matilda Lutz is introduced upside-down in her underwear and Alex Roe has serious trouble keeping his shirt on – who go on a cursed road trip to dig up still more dirt on Samara’s origins. The guest star of Ring Two played Samara’s mad mother, so it’s not much of a stretch to guess what role Vincent d’Onofrio has here.
Early on, the film parallels the wilder, more entertaining Sadako vs Kayako – the Japanese Ring/Grudge mash-up – with Galecki supervising a student cult who willingly take on the curse. Sadly, that angle gets dropped (along with several characters) so ditzes Julia and Holt can waste time sleuthing out the obvious. The VHS angle is quaint now, so Samara upgrades her curse and crawls out of flatscreens and mobile phones while her video threatens to go viral – but all of this is crammed into a busy, yet uninvolving finish.
Ring down the curtain, this franchise revival is not saved by the bell.