By Bill Wine

By Bill Wine

KYW Newsradio 1060

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PHILADELPHIA (CBS)Rings has a familiar ring to it.

That’s because it’s the third offering in the supernatural-horror-thriller franchise launched in 2002 with The Ring and followed in 2005 by the unimaginatively titled The Ring Two.

Rings is the second sequel, arriving over a decade after the first one and bringing with it expectations that might be a bit higher than, well, expected because both predecessors were superior genre items.

Well, tuck those expectations away because, as it turns out, the first two installments could run rings around Rings, an afterthought of a sequel if ever there were one.

 

(1 star out of 4)

(1 star out of 4)

 

The films are based on a popular Japanese horror franchise that spins a variation on the urban legend involving a mysterious videotape (ah, remember videotape?) — that assures viewers that they have only one week to live – and is reliably and terrifyingly prophetic.

Unless, that is, you make a copy and get someone else to watch it, thus passing along the curse to that unlucky person while escaping it yourself.

The first installment – starring Naomi Watts as a reporter investigating the phenomenon — was a remake of a 1998 Japanese film (Ringu), a stylish exercise in horrific happenings, visually elegant and compellingly intense, that delivered more than its share of disturbingly shivery moments without resorting to excessive gore.

But what it suggested was spine-tinglingly efficient and truly scary.

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And The Ring Two, set six months later, followed suit, demanding quite a suspension of disbelief, given the ghosts and undead involved, but haunting and resonating and delivering a second helping of the heebie-jeebies.

Now here it comes again, updated and digitized.

Set 13 years after the previous chapters, the threequel – feel free to call it The Ring Three if that rings your bell — is once again the story of the acrobatic and flexible Samara (Bonnie Morgan) and the curse that she brings.

Julia (Matilda Lutz), the lead character, sacrifices herself to save her boyfriend (Alex Roe) and in doing so makes a grisly discovery: there is a “movie within the movie” that no one has ever seen before.

And television veterans Johnny Galecki and Vincent D’Onofrio turn up in the supporting ensemble.

The lord of the Rings is Spanish director F. Javier Gutierrez (Before the Fall), who works from a screenplay by Jacob Estes, Akiva Goldsman, and David Louka that’s based on a novel by Koji Suzuki. The script not only references the first two movies, which is understandable, but it cannibalizes them as well by including moments from them.

But because this third Ring never establishes what everyday life is like, it has no power to scare us when the supernatural element kicks in. The only thing we end up fearing is that the film will never end.

Whereas the first two films got under our skin, this one gets nowhere near it. They were horrific; this one’s just plain horrible.

So with this Rings I thee scare up 1 star out of 4 for a film about a videotape with the catchphrase, “First you watch it. Then you die.” As for the film itself, “First you watch it. Then you regret.”

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