Prepare for Rings with a recap of what has happened in The Ring story so far
As revealed in our guide to the complete The Ring franchise, the series has had a long history, spanning films, TV series, video games, books over the last 25 years. While America readies for the next installment of the franchise, Rings, which hits theaters February 3rd, let’s take a more in-depth look at the American properties and explore The Ring story so far!
The Ring (2002, dir. Gore Verbinski)
The Ring story begins in director Gore Verbinski‘s first horror film, and only his third feature as director. It was a smashing success, grossing $129 million in the US, and $230 million worldwide. In its first two weeks in Japanese theaters, The Ring grossed $8.8 million, compared to the original Ringu‘s $6.6 million total.
The Ring stars Naomi Watts as Rachel Keller, a journalist whose niece Katie dies in a bizarre, freak accident. She is a healthy teenager, yet her cause of death is a heart attack, and her mother discovered Katie’s body in a contorted, inhuman fashion. The week prior to her death, Katie, her boyfriend, and two other friends stayed at the Shelter Mountain Inn, where they watched a mysterious video. The boyfriend and two friends also died, at exactly the same time as Katie, in exactly the same manner. Rachel heads to the inn, finds the video tape, and watches it in the same room Katie stayed in. As soon as the video ends, the phone rings. A voice on the other ends whispers “seven days.”
Rachel reaches out to her ex-boyfriend, and her son’s father, Noah (Martin Henderson). Noah is a videotape analyst, so she copies the video for him to examine. Though Noah doesn’t believe a curse can be passed via video tape, strange supernatural occurrences make him a believer. When Rachel discovers her son, Aidan, watching the video, things take a more urgent turn. Rachel recognizes a lighthouse in the video, and connects the video with Anna Morgan (Shannon Cochran), a horse breeder who lived on Moesko Island. She killed herself after her horses jumped to their death in a bizarre mass suicide.
Anna and her husband, Richard (Brian Cox) had adopted a daughter, Samara (Daveigh Chase). She had “nensha,” which is a psychic power, giving her the ability to imprint gruesome images into people’s minds. According to the family doctor, Samara was imprinting images into her adoptive mother’s mind, which caused her to commit suicide. It is likely that this is what caused the horses to kill themselves, too. Rachel thinks that Richard, upset over his wife’s suicide, abused and eventually killed Samara. She confronts him, but Richard reveals that he was similarly afflicted. He kills himself. Rachel finds Samara’s “room,” located in the barn, lending credence to Richard’s story. He tried to isolate Samara to prevent her from “infecting” anyone else.
Clues lead Rachel and Noah back to the Shelter Mountain Inn, where they discover a well hidden beneath the cabin. Rachel falls into the well and has a vision of Anna throwing Samara into the well, then sealing it up (the “ring” is the thin ring of light visible between the cracks of the well lid). Samara’s corpse is still down there, and Rachel removes it, giving her a proper burial. Rachel and Noah believe the curse has been broken, until Aidan tells his mother that she shouldn’t have set Samara free: “She never sleeps.” Rachel rushes to Noah’s house to warn him. She is too late, and discovers his mangled corpse. She also realizes that she should have died, having watched the tape before Noah, but she hasn’t. The only thing she did differently was duplicate the tape. In order to “inoculate” Aidan, she helps him make a copy.
The success of The Ring led to a surge in American remakes of horror films made in Japan (J-horror). The Grudge, Dark Water, One Missed Call, and Pulse were all part of this phase, which tired quickly and was all but finished five years later. The Ring was the best received of the bunch, topping both the critical reviews and box office counts. It won a Saturn Award and Teen Choice Award for Best Horror Movie, and Daveigh Chase won Best Villain at the MTV Movie Awards.
“Rings” (2005, dir. Jonathan Liebesman)
This short film (only 17 minutes long) is set “some time” after the events in The Ring and sets up the sequel. It was not released theatrically; it was a bonus disc included with the rerelease of The Ring on DVD and as a bonus feature on the DVD for The Ring Two.
In Rings, The Ring video has caused cults to sprout up. People form groups, or “rings.” The first person watches the video, then sees how long he or she can last before giving in and showing the video to the next person on the list. No one has successfully made it past six days before they get scared and show the video to the next person. Jake (Ryan Merriman) is up next, and Vanessa (Alexandra Breckenridge), another girl in the group, encourages him to wait until the seventh day. But he can’t do it, and on day six he shows the video to Tim, the next person in his “ring.” Except Tim refuses to watch it. He is in on it with Vanessa, who wants to see what happens on day seven. Jake becomes desperate, even going so far as to dial phone numbers at random, trying to find his victim. He finally gets a girl at school, Emily (Emily VanCamp), to watch the video. This leads straight into The Ring Two.
The Ring Two (2005, dir. Hideo Nakata)
With the huge success of The Ring, it is unsurprising that a sequel would be forthcoming. Gore Verbinski was not going to return for the sequel (he was shooting The Weather Man with Nicolas Cage and prepping his second Pirates of the Caribbean film). The studio went with what seemed like a safe bet: Hideo Nakata. Nakata directed the original Japanese Ring film (most often referred to as Ringu in this country) as well as Ringu 2.
The sequel continues The Ring story as Emily comes over to Jake’s house to “study.” He shows her the tape, but she is too scared and covers her eyes through it. That means Jake fails, and Samara kills him. Rachel and Aidan move to town and soon hear of Jake’s death. Naturally, Rachel has to investigate. When she sees Jake’s corpse, she knows Samara is behind this – not least of all because she has a vision of Samara grabbing her, saying, “I found you.” She finds the video tape at Jake’s house and burns it.
The supernatural Samara activity starts up again at Rachel’s house. Aidan starts having dreams of Samara, prescient visions, and poltergeist activity. He also becomes sick with bouts of unexplained hypothermia and bruises that appear instantly. No longer feeling safe in her home, she takes Aidan to her boss’s house. Max (Simon Baker) wants to take Aidan to the hospital, but Rachel refuses, knowing they can’t help him. While Rachel is bathing Aidan one night, she believes he has turned into Samara. Max walks in on Rachel trying to drown what appears to be her own son. Max takes Aidan directly to the hospital, and parental abuse is suspected. Rachel is not allowed to see Aidan.
Desperate for answers, Rachel starts digging deeper into Samara’s life, and discovers her birth mother, Evelyn (Sissy Spacek), is still alive. Evelyn tried to drown Samara as an infant, and has been in a mental institution ever since. While Rachel is chasing down Evelyn, Aidan is fully possessed by Samara, and he/she makes his/her doctor kill herself so they can escape. Aidan/Samara go home and Max shows up, looking for Rachel. By the time Rachel comes home, Max is dead.
Aidan comes to Rachel in a dream, telling her how to defeat Samara. She doses him with sleeping pills and drowns him in the bathtub. With Aidan dead, Samara leaves his body, and Rachel revives her son. Samara isn’t done messing with Rachel, and drags her into the video through the TV screen.
Rachel finds herself in the well and realizes that the well is left uncovered in the video. Rachel scurries up the side of the well, Samara close behind, and manages to seal the well shut. Samara is trapped, and the “cycle” is over. But Rachel is still trapped in the video. She hears Aidan calling to her, and follows his voice to the cliff Anna jumped off. Rachel jumps, and ends up in her living room, safe and sound.
Unlike its predecessor, The Ring Two was critically hated and, while it made money, it wasn’t even close to the first film. The Ring Two only made $76 million domestically and $85 million internationally. It’s no wonder it took over a decade to get a third film off the ground.
Rings (2017, dir. F. Javier Gutierrez)
Rings is set in the present day, but it had some trouble getting here. Originally the film was titled The Ring 3D, but about six months after that announcement, in 2014, the title was changed to Rings. Clearly, the 3D didn’t work out. There were also rumors that Rings was going to be a prequel to the original film. Production ran from March 23 to May 31, 2015 in Atlanta, but had to go back for reshoots in July 2016. Rings has had no fewer than four release dates: November 13, 2015; April 1, 2016; October 28, 2016; and finally February 3, 2017.
The plot of Rings follows Holt (Alex Roe) as he explores the dark urban legend of a mysterious videotape said to kill the watcher seven days after viewing. His girlfriend, Julia (Matilda Lutz), becomes worried about him, and sacrifices herself to save her boyfriend. In doing so, she discovers a movie within the movie that no one has ever seen before.