Late last summer, Don't Breathe was released, and as the closing credits rolled I vividly remember turning to the person next to me and saying, “Man, I just can't wait until they remake that and cast Vincent D'Onofrio as the blind guy!” Then, miraculously, the girl in front of me said this very same sentence to the person next to her, and so those words spread throughout the entire auditorium. Little did we know, it was coming sooner than we expected.
Of course, this did not really happen, but I wish it had, because Rings, the third movie in the American Ring franchise that was sparked by Gore Verbinski in 2002, is essentially a rehash of Don't Breathe in many ways (Although to avoid spoilers, I'll stay vague). Needless to say, as the third act of this movie kicks in, the similarities become apparent. At this point, Rings becomes an interesting little thriller that plays with the franchise's mythology in ways that you could totally live without, but won't entirely hate watching.
The road to that ending, however, is essentially what you would expect: The Ring for the digital age. Now Samara is reaching people through computers, smartphones and Quicktime software. Johnny Galecki (The Big Bang Theory) plays a college professor who stumbles upon the VHS tape of Samara, and after discovering he has seven days to live (and that he actually owns a VCR), does everything he can to ensure that he lives, as well as making certain that he and a select group of students can determine if this tape proves the existence of the afterlife.
It feels like a sci-fi feature for a while, and not a terrible one, until the third act arrives and we meet D'Onofrio's character, who devours the scenery in ways that I didn't expect. In this final act, the film's script begins to unearth mythology that feels right in the moment but doesn't always make sense. Still, it makes for a decent ending to a mediocre movie, and it does for The Ring what Blair Witch did for The Blair Witch Project. Take that comparison however you see fit.
Surprisingly, the film looks very good, director F. Javier Gutierrez setting up some scenes in shockingly competent fashion, while cinematographer Sharone Meir (Whiplash) consistently provides gorgeously bleak shots that are never matched by the events of the lackluster script. Accompanying these shots is some fairly effective sound design, and when I learned that the people responsible also did sound for Django Unchained, The Shallows, and Godzilla, it wasn't really a surprise.
Rings is a movie that is never really boring, and I can't even say that about some better-quality films that release during Oscar season. It's a perfectly watchable, always entertaining picture with no real scares unless you consider an overabundance of jumpscares to be frightening, but it's almost recommended viewing for D'Onofrio, the cinematography, and the sound design alone. “Almost” being the key word here.