Rings ***Dir: F. Javier Gutiérrez. With: Matilda Lutz, Alex Roe, Johnny Galecki, Aimee Teegarden. 102 mins. Cert: 15
Circles within circles. It’s been fifteen years since The Ring, Gore Verbinski’s American translation of the cult Japanese horror Ringu, which means an entire generation of Westerners might not have been scared or bored to death by the sight of lank-haired spooks emerging from the gogglebox. This update for the era of iPhones and .MOV files has very quickly to acknowledge that the VHS players that perpetuated this curse circa the millennium are now practically occult items, less likely to be found occupying cherished home-cinema space than collecting dust along with the Ouija boards in junkshops.
Another key shift: where Verbinski’s redo could star a thirtysomething Naomi Watts, the refresh retools the material for those college kids who’ve come to overrun multiplexes in the past decade-and-a-half. Yet – given how much of this legend has been unspooled already – it’s miraculous that the presiding script committee have alighted upon an at least semi-involving mystery: the inquiries of young Julia (appealing Ellen Page-alike Matilda Lutz) into her errant boyfriend’s participation in an extracurricular research project overseen by Professor Gabriel (Johnny Galecki, nicely ambiguous), a tangent that slyly suggests this phenomenon might well merit further study.
Director F. Javier Gutiérrez has evidently parsed every thesis going on Ring and Female Sexuality, but he also has fun with the franchise’s organising visual conceit (stalled Mac cursors, AA circles) and handles the setpieces with aplomb: the admirably loopy finale, involving blind Vincent d’Onofrio’s swarming army of cicadas, is worthy of one of the better Exorcist sequels. We’re a world away from the quiet culture shock of Ringu, which lurked in far-flung corners of videoshops and the rep circuit; this offshoot’s essentially a well-produced, easily accessed B-movie. Still, it wouldn’t kill you to watch it, and it does more than expected to reinvent its particular wheel.
Rings opens in cinemas nationwide today.