Paramount Pictures lets Samara (Bonnie Morgan), that creepy ghost girl, crawl out of your television this week on blu-ray and DVD, with their 21st century update on the spooky tale first introduced to most North American audiences with 2002’s The Ring.
Based on the Japanese film, Ringu, from director Hideo Nakata, the story introduced horror buffs to a video tape that kills you seven days after you watch its contents. Gore Verbinski directed the 2002 adaptation and with a moody sense of story-telling and get under the skin visual imagery and scares.
It was followed up by The Ring Two in 2005, both films starring Naomi Watts, and then it was left to its own devices for over a decade. Now Paramount has resurrected Samara and brought her into an updated social media world.
Guitierrez has a nice visual style and their are some very cool images in this film, but the film does have a few missteps, replacing some well-realised characters with interchangeable twenty-somethings in an attempt to appeal to the teen movie-going audience.
This time around the plot centres around a university professor, Gabriel (Johnny Galecki) who comes across the infamous videotape, and develops a study around it. This is a plot I would have been really interested in following. Instead we are introduced to Julia (Matilda Lutz) who comes racing to the university when her boyfriend, Holt (Alex Roe) stops responding to her Skype calls and texts.
Julia is exposed to the tape, now uploaded as a video file on the web, and has seven days to solve the mystery of the images (some new ones are found – and those are pretty cool) and how it ties to Samara.
The idea of the study is glossed over, but the concept of documenting, and recording the experiences of the seven days is very cool, especially by the addition of a tail to each person who views the tape, thereby saving their lives. If this had been tied in with the mystery of Samara, it may have been a strong addition to the Ring cycle.
Also missing is a true exploration of the idea of Samara using all the social media platforms that are available – can you imagine an image from the infamous tape posted on Instagram, and when viewed begins to move or hint at something spooky happening?
Instead Julia travels to a small town, Holt in tow, investigating the truth of Samara’s life, but the reveals and true villain of the piece are telegraphed simply because of the level of casting.
It feels like the story has been toned down, stripping away the mystery that really served the first film well, and making the film about easily connected dots (sometimes too conveniently) with characters you don’t really care about and simply want to see meet their fate at Samara’s vengeful hands.
The blu-ray does look great, and highlights Guitierrez’s images, and the extras are fairly solid, including a behind the scenes doc about the film, and a featurette about the return of Samara.
I think, in a lot of ways, this film could be used to introduce teen viewers to the concept of the Ring, and then, just like a cycle, go back and view the first two.
In the end, for the horror buff, this one is a bit of a mixed bag (though the ending intrigues me), but take a look yourself, as it is available today on blu-ray and DVD from Paramount Pictures.