When The Ring came out in 2002, and even The Ring Two in 2005, VHS was still in pretty widespread use. That’s not so much the case in 2017. VHS absolutely still be a huge component of any real film enthusiast, since an absolutely huge number of films released on VHS have never been made available in any other format, but the general public seems to be either completely unaware or completely indifferent to that fact. So if you’re going to have a new release in 2017 that deals with a video being passed around, you should either treat VHS with respect or not use it at all. Rings chooses option C, which is to treat VHS like antiquated garbage at the beginning, and then to completely ignore it for the rest of the movie.
Gabriel (Johnny Galecki) is a pot-smoking physics professor with an apparent fondness for vintage stuff. That’s the only explanation offered for his purchasing a VCR from the family of a kid who died (but who apparently wasn’t all that into VHS himself, from the meager selection of tapes available). But there was a tape already in the VCR, and, by watching it, Gabriel signed his own death warrant. After watching the two-minute video, you get a phone call in which a female voice says “Seven days,” and then you die a week later. Unless you make a copy of the tape and get someone else to watch it, in which case your death sentence is transferred to them.
Rather than just getting one other person to watch the tape, Gabriel sets up some kind of pyramid scheme, in which he gets several people to watch it, and then gets other people to watch it behind them, and so on. It’s apparently because he wants to study the process in the hopes that it will reveal the secrets of the universe or some garbage, but that’s how Holt (Alex Roe) and his girlfriend Julia (Matilda Lutz) get sucked in. But when Julia watches the video (now transferred onto USB thumb drive) to save Holt, something prevents her from making a copy. The video is different for her. It’s got extra stuff. And now she has to figure out what all of that means before her time is up.
Rings is not terrible. There’s nothing good about it, and it’s lazy and uninventive, but it’s not actually terrible. They mostly ignore the earlier films in the series, except for the basic premise of a tape that will kill you if you watch it. There are unnecessary plot lines, unnecessary characters, and a number of things that just don’t make sense. But it does take a couple of interesting turns along the way that elevates it a bit beyond the utter garbage that it could have been, and I didn’t have any trouble staying awake through the 11:30 pm screening. So I guess we can commend it for that while still hoping that its box office performance doesn’t warrant another sequel.