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This unwanted horror sequel is an even bigger drag than its villain's hairdo.

First, you watch Rings. Then, your interest in the franchise quickly dies. That's what happens when someone unleashes a video no one really wants to see, right? If the Ring series has taught us anything, it's that unpleasant content always sparks a nasty end — and that's exactly what happens here. In a way, the saga's own rules explain why these movies keep coming, except for the fact that creating a copy is supposed to stop something bad from happening. In this case, it just makes things even worse.

Odds are, you should already have some idea as to what this movie is about. Maybe you saw Naomi Watts in 2002's The Ring and its lacklustre 2005 sequel. Maybe you're familiar with the (superior) Japanese original from 1998, Ringu, and the numerous spinoffs that followed on from that. Perhaps you're even aware of the Korean remake The Ring Virus or the recent crossover with The Grudge franchise Sadako vs. Kayako. Point is, the premise remains much the same in every single one: unsuspecting folks press play on a creepy video tape, a phone call delivers a seven-day deadline, and the long-haired Samara (now played by Bonnie Morgan) starts wreaking havoc once time runs out.

Finding a VCR at a flea market, college professor Gabriel (Johnny Galecki) and his student Skye (Aimee Teegarden) are the latest to let the unhinged ghost loose, turning it into a research project about the existence of the soul. Freshman Holt (Alex Roe) gets himself caught up in the mess, and is soon counting down the days as well. Enter his worried hometown girlfriend, Julia (Matilda Lutz), who decides to get to the bottom of the whole unsettling business.

Wait, didn't the first two American Ring flicks involve a feisty female trying to thwart death by investigating Samara's background? Yes, yes they did. Doing the same thing over and over is what horror sequels are usually about, so the fact that this F. Javier Gutiérrez-directed effort retraces the same path is hardly a surprise. Indeed, there's basically nothing surprising about this film, other than Vincent D'Onofrio showing up to deliver some exposition. When you're trying to elicit scares, that's a problem.

Cue the same tape and the same journey, shot in a style that makes the entire movie look like a digital copy of better material. A video-within-a-video of extra spooky visuals taunt Julia and company, and an expanded backstory tries to explain Samara's actions even further, but both just typify the filmmakers' underlying "more is better" line of thinking, and neither device manages to amp up the scares or the intrigue. Nor does updating the concept for the modern day. Seeing Samara on in-flight screens and smartphones, and watching people duplicate files rather than tapes, still ultimately smacks of more of the same.

Even more infuriating is the fact that Rings is blatantly setting the scene for more unwanted chapters. That means that the 102-minute revisit isn't just a routine rehash — it's filler designed to work up a frenzy for something that might never actually get made. Keeping audiences hanging for future fare rather than bothering to really entertain them this time around might be common in an era of endless, interconnected superhero movies, but here, it's a bigger drag than Samara's limp locks.

Published on February 27, 2017 by Sarah Ward

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