It's been more than a decade since we were all underwhelmed by The Ring 2, and plenty has changed in the world since that time: the proliferation of flat-screen TVs, the rise of YouTube and social media, the quick death of the “J-horror” craze, et al. One thing that hasn't changed, though, is horror fans' appetite for seeing attractive people terrorized by creatures of the night, and so The Ring franchise is finally back, albeit with a younger cast and a healthy dose of body horror that was decidedly not a factor in the first two American entries of the Hideo Nakata-created franchise.
One of the fresher aspects of Nakata's Japanese original and Gore Verbinski's 2002 remake was that the action centered on a thirtysomething woman reporter/single mother in an age when teen-driven, tongue-in-cheek horror films were the order of the day. With its cast of fresh-faced young actors, Rings can thusly be counted as something of a regression for the franchise — though in fairness, horror films built around teens and young adults are rather less de rigueur than they were at the turn of the century.
Still, I can't help but feel discouraged by the first trailer for the F. Javier Gutierrez-directed reboot. Not only does it feel somehow indistinct from such recent bland Friday night scarefests as Ouija, it promises (threatens?) to deepen franchise lore (the official synopsis teases a “'movie within the movie' that no one has ever seen before…”) in an attempt to pad out a series that was successful largely thanks to its ingeniously simple central hook: a cursed videotape that kills anyone who watches it in seven days. To be frank, the first American film (which I saw before Nakata's original) was most gripping in the early going, before the tape's backstory was explained; by the time Samara crawled out of that TV in the third act, the fear factor drummed up by the deliriously scary first hour had mostly run dry.
Therein lies the irony in sequelizing horror films, which tend to lose their power the more expositional they get. It's a huge challenge for filmmakers in the genre to work around that, and very few of them manage to keep things properly unnerving in the face of the audience's demand to know more (often to their own detriment). I truly hope that Rings can deepen the mythology without draining the mystique that made the series so compelling to begin with. But I'm not holding my breath after this trailer, which ends with a sequence that could justifiably be sub-titled “Samara on a Plane.”
Rings hits theaters on October 28.