Monster Nation: Rings

You're in danger, girl: Matilda Lutz in Rings.

Back in 2002, when the original The Ring was released, all the tropes of the J-horror subgenre were new to American audiences: the long stringy hair, the pale faces, the vengeful ghosts. Plus, the movie was really, effectively scary. Fifteen years later, we're not only wise to all of these conventions, we're way beyond VHS tapes. In the age of social media, streaming video, and Blu-Ray, is there any way a Ring sequel can scare us anymore? Judging by this month’s Rings, which has been delayed a few times since its filming three years ago (usually a bad sign): eh, kind of.

The VCR hurdle is cleared easily enough. The underrated Johnny Galecki (The Big Bang Theory) stumbles across one of the machines at a flea market, and of course the all-important tape is inside. Soon, Galecki's college professor, Gabriel, is involved in an elaborate study of the tape's effects, which ensnares both Holt (the blandly handsome Alex Roe) and his girlfriend Julia (Matilda Lutz). Rings is really Julia's story: she makes the seemingly dumb move of watching the dang tape, but it's a conscious decision to save Holt and she's the one who pursues Samara's mystery and demonstrates considerable strength and resourcefulness. Lutz is a capable actress, and she does a nice job of carrying the mantle of the original Ring's female protagonist, Rachel (Naomi Watts). The visuals are appropriately moody and dream-like and the central plot is involving.

But Rings just isn't that scary. Part of the problem is that the beats are so predictable after the first two films. There's also a lot of wasted potential. Galecki and Vincent D'Onofrio are terrific actors, but they don't quite have enough to do—their roles are more plot necessities than fully developed characters. The opening and closing scenes raise interesting possibilities that are largely unexplored. The clever airplane curtain raiser, spoiled by the trailers, ends abruptly; the ending suggests how the curse will operate in the internet age, which would have been a good avenue for the entire movie to follow. As many a writing professor has declared, Rings ends where it should begin. Guess we'll have to wait for the next sequel.

Monster Nation covers the world of horror in its various forms—from film to TV to haunted houses and more—with a fun, irreverent spin. Follow us on YouTube, on Tumblr, and through regular posts here on Geeks OUT. Stay spooky!