‘Rings’ Review: A Dull Sequel Nobody Needed, But There’s a Lesson to Its Failure

It takes seven days for the videotape in the “Ring” horror franchise to kill its victims, but only 102 minutes for “Rings” to bleed the premise dry. Twelve years after the last underwhelming entry in the series, “The Ring Two,” this half-hearted attempt to resurrect the J-horror import for another era instead proves its irrelevance.

The original movies generated an eerie suspense around grainy VHS footage and the horrors that lurk within its confines coming to life. This latest entry, featuring all new characters, finds the ghostly Samara working her way into the digital realm, hacking her way through MP4 files to assail a whole new generation of viewers — not only the characters, but younger audiences who may have no other reference point for this franchise outside of this dull retreat.

They would be better off watching “It Follows” instead — or, for that matter, the recently released J-horror crossover “The Ring vs. The Grudge,” which at least doesn’t make the mistake of “Rings” in taking this overcooked concept seriously after so many years. The first time somebody in “Rings” mutters, “I need to show you something,” it’s like listening to an awful pop music cover of a classic rock melody. The notes just don’t stick like they used to.

While neither the original 1998 “Ring” nor Gore Verbinski’s 2002 remake were masterpieces, at least they built some genuine suspense out of the premise: Watching the video is a creepy experience on its own right, but it also starts the clock. Pass the video on to somebody else and you’re in the clear. If you don’t, Samara emerges from your television and drains your life force. By “The Ring Two,” that challenge has birthed an entire subculture of teens sharing the video with each other like a kind of deathly spin-the-bottle; with “Rings,” the threat’s been around long enough to birth a research facility.

That’s where a sleepy-eyed university professor (Johnny Galecki) ropes in his students with the promise of discovering…