Suspension of disbelief in the horror genre is a tricky thing. Horror movies are mostly about rules. Michael Myers is an unstoppable killing machine, but we don't know why...he just keeps getting up. Freddy Krueger kills in dreams, but can't do much damage in the real world. Jason Voorhees can take a lot of damage, but does poorly in water and around mommies.
In all these examples, the rules don't even need to make sense outside of the reality of the film's universe. However, once the rules are introduced, the horror flick needs to follow them or else everything feels like a cheat. I can believe a child murderer can enter teenagers' dreams and cause them to die in an escalating series of violent and imaginative ways, but if he comes into the real world and starts killing people with his razor hands, I'm completely pulled out of the story.
"The Ring" was a perfect example of establishing and then following a specific story's cinematic horror rules. There is a videotape with two minutes of spooky imagery on it. If you watch it, a creepy dead girl named Samara kills you seven days later, UNLESS you make a copy of the tape and show it to someone else. If that happens then you don't die and everyone (except the person you handed a death sentence to) has a happy ending.
"Rings" tries to expand the rules of "The Ring" and, in doing so, muddies them to death. For one, Samara kills people who haven't even watched the video. Instead of making the VHS tape go viral so hundreds of people have the chance to watch it, victims still just try and show one person at a time JUST MINUTES before their seven days are up.
I was really hoping this movie would be slow and uninteresting so I could call it "Bored of the Rings," but after seeing it, that would be lying. There are stylish moments throughout and the central mystery based on the origin of Samara is pretty fun, but there isn't a single scare to be found. Samara kills everyone the very same way (eyes open/wide mouth dead), so there's no tension to be found from our franchise's central villain.
I could still overlook all these things if the villain was strong enough, but that's why the "Ring" franchise will probably never make it past this installment. We learned in the first film that Samara had a terrible life and was thrown down a well by her adoptive mother, where she stayed alive for seven days. Part of each film has been about rescuing Samara from her horrible un-death and helping her spirit find peace, but she still kills tons of innocent people without any sort of remorse. As an audience, are we supposed to root for her to follow the light or be horribly destroyed by the heroes?
Everything about "Rings" is muddled and confusing. It's a fast-paced and entertaining watch if your brain is shut down, but that's damning with faint praise. It just depends on how much we expect from our horror movies. I guess the one thing we should expect is to be at least a little scared once or twice. If that's the case, maybe the entire franchise needs to follow the light and, at last, mercifully rest.
Dir. F. Javier Gutiérrez
Old Mill Stadium 16 & IMAX