[Screen It]


(2017) (Matilda Lutz, Alex Roe) (PG-13)

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Horror: A young couple tries to solve the mystery behind a mysterious video that kills its viewers one week after they watch it.
Julia (MATILDA LUTZ) is a teenager whose boyfriend, Holt (ALEX ROE), has just headed off to college. But when she hasn't heard from him in a while and then gets a strange video call from Skye (AIMEE TEEGARDEN), she decides to drive to the campus to find out what's happening. She ends up going to Holt's biology class, but the professor, Gabriel (JOHNNY GALECKI), doesn't offer any help, but his dismissal of her raises her suspicions.

She then follows him to a lab operation where he has various students watch a surreal video to test its effects on them as he tries to prove the existence of life after death. And that's because the video -- which features abstract clips, images and the view of a ghostly girl, Samara (BONNIE MORGAN), emerging from a well -- has the nasty side effect of resulting in the viewer's death seven days later, unless they make a copy and have someone else watch it before their time is up.

Both Holt and Skye have watched the tape, and the latter is trying to pass off the curse onto Julia, but the ghost girl from the tape gets to Skye first, resulting in her grotesque death. Julia then watches the tape to free Holt, but begins to experience odd supernatural occurrences. All of which lead her and Holt to try to figure out what it all means, including a trip to an old church from her visions where the blind cemetery caretaker, Burke (VINCENT D'ONOFRIO), may know more than he initially discloses.

OUR TAKE: 3 out of 10
After every press screening for a new movie, an eager publicist employed by the releasing studio wants our opinion on what we've just seen. "What did you think? is the most common question, and I usually give a quick response, sometimes positive, sometimes negative and occasionally I reply with "I need to think about it."

Upon exiting last night's screening of "Rings," the long-delayed second sequel to the generally well-received 2002 horror flick "The Ring" (itself a remake of an earlier Japanese film), I replied with the comment that I wished I had seen the series' signature tape/video seven days before arriving in the theater. That way -- since the cursed footage results in death 168 hours after seeing it -- I could have avoided having to sit through 100 or so minutes of dreck, and such a demise likely would have been less painful than enduring the horribly made film and its rote, ineffective material.

After a slightly clever transition of the studio's logo over to the TV display on a passenger plane, the film starts off fast. A young man is counting down to the end of his 7-day period and thinks he might have escaped the curse. But ghosts are dogged in their determination and thus bad things happen, but the sequence ends before its completion and ultimately has nothing to do with the rest of what's offered (that takes place two years after that intro).

And that involves Johnny Galecki playing a biology professor who -- for reasons unknown -- apparently likes old, awful technology and thus buys an archaic VHS machine from some vendor, finds an old VHS tape inside, and decides to give it a quick viewing, followed by some weird stuff happening (that he presumably initially attributes to the joint he's smoking).

The film then quickly segues to a young couple (played by Matilda Lutz and Alex Roe) who are about to part ways due to him heading off to college. Following yet another jump ahead in time, she hasn't heard from him in a while, has a creepy erotic nightmare, and then sets off for his college to figure out what's happening. The professor blows off her concerns, but her suspicions are aroused and she secretly follows him back to his lair where he's conducting experiments on students using said cursed video so that he can test whether the afterlife truly exists or not.

After seeing one girl die from the curse and realizing her boyfriend has the clock ticking against him, young Julia watches the video (that repeats the abstract and brief imagery from the earlier films) to save him, but obviously becomes afflicted herself with all sorts of weird visions following.

The couple then sets out to solve the mystery behind all of that, which includes a visit to an old church where the blind cemetery caretaker (Vincent D'Onofrio) warns that having a vision doesn't mean you know what the vision means. Undeterred, they continue their quest and the filmmaker -- F. Javier Gutiérrez, working from a lame script by David Loucka, Jacob Aaron Estes, and Akiva Goldsman -- torments us not only with repeated and recycled material from the first films, but also tired haunted house type horror conventions that wore out their welcome in general long ago.

As I watched all of this predictably and painfully unfold (with subpar direction and pacing, horrible editing, and little to no imagination in terms of the script), the only thing that kept running through my head was how this video hadn't already gone viral -- via email, text, YouTube and the myriad of other ways of sharing videos nowadays -- and wiped out most of Earth's population.

To be fair, the film concludes with the suggestion that might be the premise behind "The Ring 4: Put a Ring on It." Yet, without that sort of potential post-apocalyptic (and possible resultant zombie) plot here (or at least the threat of that which would have then utilized some much-needed ticking down clock suspense), "Rings" is a boring and poorly made mess. It rates as a 3 out of 10.

Reviewed February 1, 2017 / Posted February 3, 2017

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