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This weekend’s Rings — a revival of the horror franchise that launched with 2002’s The Ring, itself a U.S. remake of the 1998 Japanese original — feels like a callback to happier, more innocent times. Remember those days when a viral video was literally a cassette that was passed from person-to-person, killing everyone who viewed it within a seven-day period after a particularly creepy phone call? Weren’t they great?
Indeed, despite the pivots made to the concept of the original movie(s), Rings just ends up underscoring the ways in which the world treats video content differently now, compared with 15 years ago. If there was a real Ring video, there wouldn’t be a cult built around it; instead, at least two of the following things would have happened to undercut whatever mystique it once had.
As a reminder, here’s the video from 2002’s The Ring:
The Social Media Effect
Would the video lose its power when edited? That would cease to be a question quickly, with multiple versions of the clip — subtly edited, for time and individual aesthetic — showing up on Instagram within hours of its debut online. Perhaps people wouldn’t die, but just get very sick, when viewing the edited versions — which would, of course, help with the inevitable Twitter backlash within hours. Three days later, a whole new audience would discover the clip when it finally shows up on Facebook’s “Trending” feature, with a “popular article” explaining why it’s what all the kids are into except now they’re vomiting all over the place.
The Alternative Edits
Following the initial social media response, there would then be more measured follow-ups, including both Honest Trailers and How It Should Have Ended versions of the video, pointing out the cliches on the show and lack of narrative sense in the entire thing. Can a supernatural video still maintain its inexplicable ability to kill when faced with the collective snark of the internet’s film geeks? Finally, we will have a chance to find out.
The Saturday Night Live Parody
Of course, the Ring video won’t really be known to have gone viral until Saturday Night Live gets involved and bases a sketch around it. Depending on the guest-host of the week and the possibility of involvement by Kate McKinnon, could this restore some of the spooky juju to the clip? Depending on the quality, it could be just the thing that introduces the concept to a whole new audience, but perhaps SNL isn’t the venue to fully return the thing to its most powerful. Let’s see if a mention on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver can manage that.
Overblown Panic And Unreasonable Demands
Once the clip has gone from the internet to television, it would only be a matter of time before two things would happen. Firstly, cable news would get involved, running excerpts of the video before cutting to concerned, and increasingly unwell, talking heads who haven’t quite figured out what repeated exposure can do to them. Secondly, President Trump would step in and sign an executive order to switch off the entire internet while he works out what the hell is going on. There would be protests to object to this decision, but without the internet, it turns out that online organizing gets far more difficult.
The YouTube Critique Of The Editing And Color Grading Choices
Once the internet has been switched back on — let’s be honest, if nothing else, the president would want Twitter back as quickly as possible — the inevitable fallout would remain: lengthy YouTube videos taking apart the original Ring video at length from the point of view of the mistakes made in its original construction. By this point, the video would likely be so divorced from its original format as to be essentially powerless, but not to worry; the comments section of each video, in which strangers argue over whether the desaturation is necessary for the intended aesthetic, will end up being deadly in its own right.
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