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Rings

One of the rules of horror films are that characters should never do what they’re told. It can be assured that if someone is warned not to do something, they’ll do it. The temptation to slightly mis-behave is something we all carry over from childhood. The consequences for doing the wrong thing were less harsh than what occurs in scary movies. ‘Rings’ shows just how bad ignoring warnings can be. The third in the American remakes of the original Japanese series, it almost conjures scares for those always caught being bad.

Julia (Matilda Lutz) is worried when her boyfriend Holt (Alex Roe) becomes enraptured by a horrific urban legend. Delving into the myth of a sinister video where the watcher dies 7 days after viewing it, Holt’s actions have dire repercussions. Not heeding the warnings given about the video, Julia aims to save her boyfriend from a dark fate. Making a shocking discovery of another movie within the video, Julia’s life is increasingly perilous as death becomes her constant companion.

‘Rings’ relies heavily on the horror movie phenomenon known as ‘jump scares’. When something is about to happen or a shocking incident is occurring, a very loud noise usually joins it. This is lazy film-making, adhering to the genre clichés without taking time to generate genuine scares. ‘Rings’ is typical of recent horror films in having little flair or imagination. It isn’t completely terrible, as the new additions to the Rings mythology are intriguing. The way they’re done is disappointing as with so much money available, such a bland product is created.

Any horror film thrives or dies by its scares. ‘Rings’ has a modicum of cheap thrills to accompany its very bombastic soundtrack. But once these shocks are over, another one arrives to quickly negate any impact. ‘Rings’ won’t be a worthy addition in the annuls of horror like ‘The Exorcist’ or ‘Halloween’ as it refuses to do anything original by living off the infamy of its predecessors. The actors do little but react to the pyrotechnics with some woeful performances reflecting the low-grade talent involved.

There have been worse horror movies than ‘Rings’, although this is as bland as many others. The spectre of another sequel is the only truly horrific moment which would scare the shackles of Death as it crawls through eternities’ door.

Rating out of 10: 4

Ouija: Origin of Evil

For decades, the Ouija board has provided spooky entertainment. A board-game where the players ‘contact the dead’ has led to several strange occurrences and many horror films. ‘Ouija: Origin of Evil’ exploits the game’s sinister allure with wicked glee. You can take this movie as seriously as you can with the game as creaky contrivances gradually provide true terror. It’s a spooky slice of horrific mayhem sure to evoke memories of other board games lovingly played before the computer age.

In 1967, widowed mother Alice (Elizabeth Reaser) and her daughters Paulina (Annalise Basso) and Doris (Lulu Wilson) run a fake séance scam. Using it to make a fast buck, their lives are turned upside down when discovering a Ouija board. When Doris uses it to contact her dead father, an evil spirit reaches through the board to possess her. A maelstrom of horror quickly develops with Alice enlisting the services of local priest Father Tom (Henry Thomas) to banish the supernatural interloper back to the hellish depths.

For all its predictable moments, ‘Ouija: Origin of Evil’ is an effective chiller. It’s hard being original and its borrowing from ‘The Omen’ and ‘The Exorcist’ films is sometimes apparent. Making it work is its level of genuine conviction. Due to the very strong performances and Mike Flanagan’s astute direction, you come to care about what happens to the characters. While the outcome may not be in doubt, how everyone reaches the conclusion is well handled due to the fine small ensemble and emotional depth.

Free of the shackles of CGI pyrotechnics, ‘Ouija: Origin of Evil’ has a pleasingly low-tech feel. The 60’s setting perfectly captures this as the story is forced to work harder in generating scares. It does with ease with the creepy atmosphere continually present. There are very little of the usual ‘jump-scares’ so prevalent in recent horror films. It’s more about the mood with the themes of handling loss and how it transforms people deftly mixed within the horror framework.

‘Ouija: Origin of Evil’ effectively plays on fears of the unknown and the power of ‘the other side’. It can be taken as either scary nonsense or as an intense haunted house movie. Either way it may increase sales of the board-game with this cross-promotion surely not harming its shadowy reputation.

Rating out of 10: 7