Thursday, March 02, 2017

The Ring 3

I spoke in haste my last post when I said the only current franchise I'm invested in are the Underworld films because I very much enjoy the Ring film series. Even though I have a voracious movie watching habit I have eliminated TV from my tastes. The big difference between movies and TV is that most movies are stand-alone but TV series are serialized. Even the TV shows that aren't serials, the stand-alone or episodic ones, are of no appeal to me because I feel obligated to watch whole seasons. There're just too many and it takes up so much of my time I cut them out like video games. I have a TV but anytime it's on it's playing a movie.

There's a maybe in poor taste analogy I've always used likening movies to a one night stand that once it's over you don't owe anything. But TV shows start harassing you with hey aren't you going to watch the next one this isn't over. Don't leave me. And I'm obsessive. If I have a favorite movie I might watch it more than 5 times which is still maybe 9 hours over the course of years, but I don't even want to think about the math on how much time it takes to rewatch a season of a TV show I really liked.

I just want to commend the Ring movie series because the simple effective narrative device of a blank VHS tape of a few weird black and white images that kills whoever watches it 7 days later because SAMARA MORGAN is an evil child who wants others to watch how she died then she wants them to die and she never stops. Serial is her curse. She's made it okay.

Rings (2017, F. Javier Gutiérrez) is the third film in the series that started with The Ring (2002, Gore Verbinski) and is a reboot of the series. I saw The Ring when it first came out in theaters and it's easily been one of my favorite horror movies of the past twenty years.

Rings brings back the green art direction from the first one and commits to it well. It also returns with a sizzler pre-credit sequence that really jumpstarts the proceedings--the rings on a plane bit wasn't as cheesy as I'd worried it being from the glimpse in the trailer. But most effectively Rings is about Samara and Samara is evil. I once had a new way of seeing Ichi the Killer (2001, Takashi Miike) where I realized it caught the pulse of the crime genre brilliantly by populating Shinjuku with the most disturbed criminals imaginable and pitting them against each other with no heroes even visiting the narrative. And Ichi the Killer doesn't ever give any of its characters what they want/the goals they pursued. You don't need a white hat showing up to say crime doesn't pay, there are other ways to say so. So I see a coincidence that the Ring franchise is based on a Japanese series of novels and movies that began in the late 90s. Ring thrives in the horror genre because Samara was abused by evil parents so she's evil and even when the protagonist tries to help her we inevitably learn you shouldn't help Samara.

The grainy black and white VHS shot of the well in the forest never gets old.

Samara belongs to a lineage of the wet girl, a Japanese horror subgenre, and at the end of The Ring, when that spooky little kid has that close-up and looks in the lense all terrifyingly-cute saying: "And I'm sorry. It won't stop," that is the final touch of expert craftsmanship. That little girl will always be coming out of that well. And because this all feels earned, I don't object to the franchise's intentionally open ended nature. At least not yet.

Another quality built into this material is the plot device which drives the psychological supernatural horror, the tape itself. We know it's two minutes and we've seen the images several times, but they still remain captivating. Part of it is the high contrast black and white film grain transferred to VHS texture of surreal images that look like if Salvador Dalí and Luis Buñuel shot a late 80s MTV video (for me the standout is always the woman falling off the cliff seen from behind with the grass flowing in the wind and the tree in the background and the crane move, so dreamlike, so nightmare like).

I think ultimately Rings taps into the nuances of the role of spectator and the blend of emotions that go into wanting to see more into someone's disturbing psyche and the consequences; that go into wanting to see a horror movie; that go into knowing you won't understand what you'll see and maybe no one ever will but you still watch. And while that has all been established earlier in the franchise, Rings adds the moral aspect of the college bio professor GABRIEL (Johnny Galecki) who uses his students as a network of transmitting the curse to others (if you make a copy of the tape and give it to someone that watches it you don't die). Gabriel calls the person who is arranged to watch the copy a tail and now that he has converted the VHS tape to a digital file people can share it over the internet.

Matilda Lutz who plays JULIA is great. The scary scenes are exciting. The opening where Gabriel watches the ring while smoking a joint that the fly emerges from's cherry as the rain in his backyard falls upward awesome cracked me up. But the best scene in Rings is the kill scene when Samara comes out of the flatscreen TV holy shit. The new images in the nightmare are impressive: the snake eating its own tail, crucifix of ants, the church with the books floating up into the ceiling, and the human skeleton burning in flames. And I just thought this was really creepy disturbing and a whole lot of fun.

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