F. Javier Gutiérrez, 2017, USA
Screenplay - David Loucka, Jacob Estes
& Akiva Goldsman
Another entry in the Sadako saga – or rather, “Samara” in this American interpretation. Following up Gore Gabrinski’s genuinely unsettling American version of Hideo Nakata’s 1998 original ‘Ringu’ (yes, keep up; the history of ‘Ringu’ isn’t quite as byzantine as ‘The Grudge’, but there’s still much to this franchise), this seems to be in an awkward place between trying to reboot and assuming we probably already know the premise. It dashes off the “VHS-curse-virus” without much ceremony and then, as it probably has too, updates it to the digital age. It quickly moves on from its more intriguing subplot where a professor has a kind of club of potential Samara victims – which could have explored youth’s morbid fascination with cheating death as well as trying to deconstruct Samara with science and would have been a more interesting tale – and heads for another tedious origins plot. What dilutes Samara’s scariness is not just mediocre dialogue and a series of random jump scares (noisy opening of umbrellas!) or the litany of non sequitirs, but a certain lack of intimacy as she seems to move into ‘Final Destination’ shenanigans - for example, causing a plane to crash (wait, so she is now happy to kill those who haven’t seen the tape? They’re just collateral damage?). Forget this for she has her true moment later on crawling out from a flatscreen TV. But that’s it: one genuinely creepy set piece before the script even seems to forget the seven day threat to Julia (Matilda Lutz), loaded as that is with impending doom and suspense. Then for the origin, it moves into ‘Don’t Breathe’ territory and the terror of Samara becomes somewhat secondary.
The cast and wafer thin characters go through the motions, moving from narrative trope to cliché just to go through the motions rather than becoming fully formed; indeed, the film skips over its potentially most interesting character and actor in Johnny Galecki’s Gabriel. It’s slickly made and probably doesn’t quite deserve the ire spewed at it, but most of all it is rote, confused and uninteresting. And the Braille twist shows how horror can be unintentially silly and laughable when not bolstered by a stronger context. And dull.