At the opening of Rings we are treated to a sequence in which an individual who had viewed the infamous video of antagonist Samara is traveling by airplane and believing being in a public space will keep him safe from harm since his 7 days are up. Oh, so wrong, for him and his fellow passengers. Next, the film introduces the leads, Julia (Matilda Lutz) and boyfriend Holt (Alex Roe) as he is headed off to college in a distant city. At first they keep in touch by Skype, but Holt first acts weird and then is unresponsive to Julia's attempts to reach him. Concerned, she drives to his school and via some sleuthing, discovers that Holt has fallen under the sway of a professor (Johnny Galecki, who just can't seem to break away from an academic setting) who has created a cult of sorts around the Samara video and is trying to research it to accomplish . . . something (there is some dialogue alluding to the professor's goals, but frankly it's all just rubbish).
When Holt, who has seen the video, is fast approaching his seven day deadline, Julia takes the hit of watching the video, starting a new cycle. But this time something odd has happened when copying the video and visions that Julia keeps seeing leads her and Holt to a small city where Samara once lived believing this will help find the key to Julia's salvation.
Despite a moment or two of off kilter imagery, Rings is not the least bit scary. Perhaps some of the reason for that is because the proverbial cat has been let out of the bag regarding the story's key "hook" (watch disturbing video, seven days later you meet a gruesome demise) and that all the original film's power to scare is gone and we are left with lukewarm leftovers. But the simple fact is, director F. Javier Gutierrez and screenwriters David Loucka, Jacob Estes and Akiva Goldsman just don't seem to be trying. Rings feels less like an out and out horror film and more like an occasionally creepy mystery drama, and isn't helped by the fact that the mystery aspects of the film aren't engaging. At least one "twist" is so obviously telegraphed that you wonder if any audience member would be surprised by it, which represents about all this tepid film can produce.
The acting is generally middle of the road. Lutz and Roe fill the typical slots of fresh meat for the grinder, not generating much interest of likability. The screenplay wants us to root for them, but it's a forced affection. Johnny Galecki is briefly vacating his Big Bang Theory sitcom cocoon, and his character has a bit of intrigue to him, but there isn't that much for him to work with. Vincent D'Onofrio makes a late film appearance as a local priest, and while he always brings something to pretty much any role he takes, there is nothing particularly remarkable here to make him stand out aside from being one of the few recognizable names in the cast.
Rings exists because, as has been common in filmmaking in recent years, this is a recognizable and familiar franchise that Paramount owns the rights to and can churn out another entry on the cheap and hopefully make a few bucks on. It is a rather depressing state of affairs that that is all that is necessary to warrant a film from a major Hollywood studio be produced these days, and that might be the most horrifying thing about Rings.