Well it’s February, so everyone knows what that means. Time to take the old ball-and-chain out for a nice meal and then a knock-down drag-out scary as fuck horror movie, which is what I did, by myself, to witness and review the 2017 horror sensation Rings.
Rings is a soft reboot + sequel to the Ring/Ringu franchise, which originated in a country called Japan in the late 90s, based on a series of books. Though there’s a lot of media related to the franchise, the mythos isn’t that deep. You know the story. Haunted videotape, seven days, first you see it then you die. That’s fine. I happen to be on record in my belief that the American The Ring is great.
But I had some problems, watching the trailers, thinking that this one was going to be any good. My number one problem was a logical one, about the movie’s universe. See, it’s a whole new movie, but the deadly footage appears to have never changed. It’s odd to me, after all these years, considering that particular dead girl is now a real-life grown woman. It feels a little hokey, you know?
Usually I would like the fidelity to the original, but here it just feels odd. I mean, The Ring came out in 2002, so in the world of the new movie, this Ring footage has been propagating around the world for fifteen years and somehow managed not to kill literally everyone except for uncontacted tribal people and the blind. Questions surrounding this subject are literally the only reason I went to see the movie. I had to get an answer on this issue. Split was sold out, also.
So the first thing that happens is that the Ring takes down a plane. The air control panel flickers, the pilots look quizzically at each other, and then holy fucking shit a pirate feed is jacking in. Every screen on the plane starts showing the video. The plane then immediately crashes, which raises the question, seven days? It’s left unclear, but I think this entire massacre was meant to kill just one guy who watched the video on his phone in the airplane bathroom. The whole thing plays out in a very Final Destination way, which strikes me as inappropriate. It’s like Death from Final Destination is just using the Ring movie as some sort of hack, for massive damage. Anyway, thousands die when the plane strikes One World Trade Center, taking us to the title card, which I don’t have a screenshot of, but it looks like this.
Which isn’t actually offensive, when you see it in motion. Actually, it’s good.
The film then cuts to five days later. Our protagonist, Jordyn, is 17 years old and in love with College Bae. She’s sheltered and religious, and only got her learner’s permit this year. Her dad’s a truck driver who is never home, which rather aptly and with elegance informs every one of the incoming bad decisions. Her mom is also a truck driver who is never home.
After a little bit of bullshit exposition to get the character names out of the way, Jordyn gets behind the wheel of her piece of shit 2004 Acura GDX and takes off, heading some indeterminate distance toward Gonzaga University in Spokane. She’s chasing after College Bae, who has grown romantically distant. On the way, because she is a terrible driver who watches YouTube at the wheel, she strikes an apparently suicidal moose that charges her from the center of the road. Sharp viewers will surmise this as an eerie callback to a similar scene in Ring Two, which has long held an unofficial designation (in my heart) as a Roger Ebert-certified Great Movie. While inexplicable on screen, there is a long-held folk tradition in Japan that psychic schoolgirls sometimes control the minds of woodland fauna to commit violence. Keep it in mind.
Anyway. We cut to Spokane, where Jordyn tracks down College Bae for cuddles, only to find him in flagrante in the arms of a passionate lover—of course. She leaves in disgust, and stomps off to the nearby Division Street bridge, where she has hastily decided to depart this life by leaping. But she is stopped!!! At the last second, by a grungy goth teen named Kodi. “Don’t do that,” he says, gripping our hero’s arm seconds before she is to jump. “There are much cooler ways to get it over with, you know.”
This seems like a joke, until we cut to a disgusting flop house where Kodi lives with eight or nine other teens, doing heroin and nitrous balloons, on some real lowlife shit. And this part of the movie is pretty cool. Jordyn moves in, essentially. It’s like Ghost Gummo. Or Kids. They party and drink Rolling Rock. The sun never shines on their trash-strewn backyard. The sensation you get from this whole sequence is that the Pacific Northwest is demon-haunted and the oppressive cloudy weather means that self-destruction is inevitable. There is much B-roll of the overcast sky, sped up with a woosh sound.
Some indeterminate time later—maybe later that night, maybe later that year—Jordyn and Kodi huddle around a stolen iPhone 6S watching fucked-up videos on the darknet. ISIS beheadings, lethal factory accidents, suicide tapes. It’s twisted how titillated Kodi and even Jordyn get from this horrific footage.
“Enough of that nonsense,” Kodi says. “You wanna see something really sick?”
They then watch the Ring video on YouTube. You’ve seen the one. Then the phone starts ringing in their hands!!! “Seven days,” the caller says. But it’s a fakeout. “Seven days I’ve been looking for this phone you thief, I know you have it blah blah blah.” It’s a cop, or the phone’s owner. Pretty clever fakeout. Kodi cracks the phone in half with nonchalance and the rest of the night is given to inhaling duster. Outside, unseen by our protagonists, a moose lurks in the treeline.
The next day it’s back to Gonzaga, where they roll into a class taught by a famous professor of Ring Studies, Doctor Jacoby Borzze. “Yeah, I’ve watched the Ring video, like, sixty friggin times,” the professor tells them. “It’s actually lit.”
“I didn’t think it was very lit,” Jordyn says, or something like that. He takes them into a back room full of antiques from the mid-80s and shows them the original Ring videotape, an import, he says, from Japan. (Good reference.) At this point, I’m in. This is the good horror that I live for. They watch that shit. The ring call comes to the nearest phone, a payphone in the hallway that they can see through a glass door. “Remarkable,” the doctor says. “That phone hasn’t worked in years.”
Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz as Jordyn Calmabatter, Johnny Galecki as Jacoby Borzze, Alex Roe as Kodi Kodek
Jordyn answers the phone and gets the seven days shit, which was the coolest moment in the theater. I ain’t heard that shit in like fifteen years. And then, down the hall, her eyes fix on… is it… is it evil? No, it’s College Bae! Oh what is that feeling in his eyes? Does he wish to reconcile? Does he yearn for his lost love? I couldn’t tell you. Jordyn’s ear starts immediately bleeding and Kodi rushes her away. The look on College Bae is pensive, seeing this new romantic rival in the mix.
For the next solid hour the movie fucking sucks. Jordyn and Kodi catch rides and bum cigarettes. Jordyn falls increasingly into homelessness and drug use. No Ring stuff happens, even as they try to solve the mystery behind the Ringing. No one actually gets ringed, though. They go to Vincent D’Onofrio’s house and he kills himself with an axe (swings it right into his own neck, very good scene). It’s unclear why this happens. I ducked into the bathroom for a vape sesh at this point. There was a woman combing her hair in the bathroom when I walked in, just like in the movie.
It freaked me out, needless to say. It was only after I crouched hidden atop the commode for twenty minutes that I calmed enough to realize that this woman… was me. So I went back to the theater, reappearing just in time for the tail end of the final day.
Oh, yeah, it’s that good shit now. I’m glad I skipped the dull part. People are getting Ringed out left and right. Kodi opens a stolen laptop. BLAM. Ringed. Jordyn texts the video to her friends. BLAMMO. Blows up their phones like Samsung. Truck dad—shows up, gets ringed. College Bae: Ringed. No one makes it out alive. At the end of the movie, the whole god damn theater gets Ringed. Samara charges the freaking lens like she’s coming right at you. I was literally shaking when I left the theater, pale and gray and soaked in piss.
This movie is awesome. This movie is bad. I cannot wait for Rings 2: Ringu, the eleventh film in the ocean-spanning international saga, in which we’ll finally get to see the X-Men fight alongside the Avengers—or against them. I want an English language Grudge v. Ring. I want a 3D sequel. I want it all, god damn it. I’m so fucking hype right now. I waited for this film forever. I love movies. I want to see all the movies. I throw up popcorn and soda and I lay in it. I’ve never not lived at this theater. I want to fuck. I need to fuck something immediately. I reach into the movie screen and fuck it. I’m alone inside the theater. Blood is pounding in my ears like the beat of a giant drum. The entire screen is shaking. Sweat pours in my eyes and stings til I can’t see. I can’t stop sweating. I can’t stop fucking. It is the persistence of this life that makes me panic; I will fuck for seven days. No rating. No moral. I didn’t see this movie.
Photo Credits: Ring 0, The National Archives of Terrorism Science, Rings 3, Ring 0, Zelda 6.