You can’t accuse the new film directed by Adam Marino (Beneath the Leaves) of being predictable. Starting out seeming like a workplace comedy before ultimately entering into horror film territory, Ring Ring will at least keep audiences guessing along the way. But despite the cleverness of its setup, the pic’s execution is somewhat lacking, failing to provide the necessary thrills to satisfy genre fans possibly lured by the presence of Lou Ferrigno (The Incredible Hulk) in a supporting role.
The opening scenes takes place in a telemarketing office staffed by young millennials who often have trouble dealing with the recipients of their cold-calling. Indeed, one of them snaps when treated rudely, threatening the person at the other end of the phone in the most profane, violent terms.
It’s clearly not a happy workplace environment, especially since the boss, Mr. Daniels (Ferrigno), has a hair-trigger temper and often verbally abuses his employees. (To say that Ferrigno leans into his character’s aggression is an understatement; in one scene in which a hapless worker accidentally knocks a sandwich out of Daniels’ hand, the actor fulminates in such rageful fashion that you think he’s about to transform into his trademark television character.)
When a fed-up Daniels informs employees Will (Malcolm Goodwin, iZombie) and Amber (Kirby Bliss Blanton, Death Wish, delivering the film’s strongest performance) that they will be let go at the end of the week, the former hatches a scheme to steal the firm’s prospective client list and use it to start their own competing business. The first part of the plan succeeds, but then Will has a drunken hookup at a bar and loses his phone containing all of the purloined information.
It turns out that all of this is a prelude to the film’s main act, taking place when Will and Amber track down the phone and proceed to break into the house where’s it located. Said abode belongs to Jacob (Tommy Kijas), who we’ve already seen as a very strange rideshare driver who’s figured into previous events in the most ludicrously coincidental of ways. When Will and Amber find themselves trapped in the basement, which also happens to contain a dead body, it leads to a cat-and-mouse game in which they desperately fight for their lives.
If you’re wondering about the film’s title, it stems from yet another manipulative element in the screenplay written by the director along with Naman Barsoom and Daniel Walker. The bulk of the story takes place on Halloween, meaning that Jacob is frequently interrupted by his doorbell ringing at the hands of trick-or-treaters. Except that in real life, none of them are accompanied by an adult in a cop’s uniform who bangs on the door and announces, “Police, open up!” as happens in one of the pic’s most ludicrous moments.
To its credit, Ring Ring attempts at times to subvert expectations. Amber turns out to be far more resourceful and courageous than Will, who suffers from a health condition that causes frequent seizures. And Jacob is not a standard-issue horror film villain but rather a more troubled, vulnerable figure in the throes of drug addiction.
But despite its very brief running time, the movie feels plodding, never quite managing to land either the intended dark humor or scares to which it aspires. You can admire its ambitions but lament the missed opportunities.
Production company: Reel Fire Entertainment
Distributor: Indie Rights
Cast: Kirby Bliss Blanton, Lou Ferrigno, Malcolm Goodwin, Tommy Kijas, Josh Zuckerman, Alex Shaffer
Director: Adam Marino
Screenwriters: Adam Marino, Naman Barssom, Daniel Wallner
Producers: Cameron Fife, Tommy Kijas, Steven Jared Mangurten
Executive producers: Adam Marino, Lawrence Marino
Director of photography: Steven Jared Mangurten
Production designer: Justin Patten
Editors: Adam Marino, Zachary Weintraub
Composer: Attila Fodor
Costume designer: Emily Moran