26 April 2005 | BrandtSponseller
Oh that this would be the sequel
This is a 15-minute long film that serves as a sort of prequel to The Ring Two (2005) and which chronologically follows the events of The Ring (2002). It begins with Jake on day 7 of "having the Ring curse". He's on the phone with someone and he's scared, but he's being advised to "record everything he sees". Then we move to a flashback showing Jake's story--from his initial involvement with "The Ring" up to the opening point of the film and slightly beyond.
As a bridge to The Ring Two, Rings only really links to the beginning of its feature-length sibling. That's bad news for The Ring Two, because this is a much better film. It has a more interesting story, the "background premise" is much more interesting, the effects have more impact, and the cinematography is much better.
Just for anyone not familiar with the gist of "The Ring Curse" (it's a prerequisite for "getting" this film; I'd advise skipping this paragraph if you haven't seen The Ring yet), the basic idea of the series is that there is a creepy piece of short, mysterious video (usually on a videotape, but not always) that some people were watching, initially by accident. After the video, which featured a strange little girl with long, straight, black hair hanging over her face like Cousin It from "The Addams Family" (1964), finished playing, the viewer would get a call telling them that they only have seven days. If they didn't get someone else to watch the tape in that time period, they would die at the end of the seven-day period, almost to the minute of their watching the Ring video.
The background idea in Rings, which was suggested by the last few pages of Kôji Suzuki's Ring novel, is that subsequent to the events shown in The Ring, knowledge of the curse, as well as copies of the videotape, have burgeoned into a bizarre kind of underground subculture. Groups of people watch each other's tapes, especially for new members, to ensure that they can have a "Ring Experience". Internet sites and support groups have blossomed.
People have figured out that while under the Ring curse, one sees bizarre things that others do not see, whether they're "windows on another (level of) reality" or merely hallucinations. As the days go by, the visions become more intense. Part of the attraction to the subculture is seeing how far one can go before showing someone else the tape and ridding oneself of the curse. It's basically a combination of acid tripping and being a daredevil--taking increasingly chancy risks with one's life, all in the knowledge that one will be safe in the end, as long as one does not push it too far.
This is an excellent idea. It's a pity they didn't continue the story as the bulk of The Ring Two. However watching Rings first will at least give The Ring Two more depth for you, because otherwise the opening scenes of The Ring Two, which are a continuation, will seem far more unrelated/disconnected.
Rings has an amazing visual sense. The cinematography, by Lukas Ettlin, who also shot 2004's American remake of Ju-On: The Grudge in conjunction with Hideo Yamamoto, is fantastic throughout, although if you have an aversion to "MTV-styled cinematography" you might not appreciate it as much. Director and co-writer Jonathan Liebesman has Ettlin employ a lot of different filmstocks, different kinds of cameras and methods (handhelds, steadicams, cinema vérité, tracking shots, etc.), and different processing techniques. The shifting visual styles constantly "cycle", or "ring", if you like, for the length of the film.
Although Ring Two also had fine, bizarre events and effects, Rings tends to trump its big sister in that regard, as well, especially since Liebesman packs as much or more into 15-minutes than the two hours of its successor. The overall feel here is much more surrealistic and horrific. To me, that seems to be what a Ring film should aim for.
The bottom line is that if you're a Ring/Ringu fan, you shouldn't miss this short. It's fun to imagine an ideal world where Rings is stretched to full length as the "real sequel" and The Ring Two is a shorter footnote. The bad news is how Rings was made available to us--packaged with a re-release, exactly the same as the earlier release, of the first film. I'm sure most Ring/Ringu fans already owned The Ring on DVD. I did, and I had to buy it again to get a copy of Rings. But, we can just pass on our second copy of the Ring DVD to someone who hasn't seen it, thus ensuring we get past what is otherwise a seven-year expiration date on our lives.