Judge Brett Cullum has never, in his life, had one of his pockets full of posies. Oh wait...there was that one time in Vegas with the llamas and the 42-gallon jug of Jello pudding...
They all fall dead.
The first thing to scare me about Ring Around the Rosie was that it went direct to video and did not have a theatrical run. But it is R-rated, so a small glimmer of hope sparked that I wouldn't be in for another watered down PG-13 frightfest. Could this be alright? It stars Gina Phillips, who was great in Jeepers Creepers which wasn't a bad little spooky flick, and Tom Sizemore of Heat. Maybe this could be fun after all. Or could it?
Karen (Phillips) inherits her grandmother's creaky old mansion, where she grew up. Granny wants her to go out there, clean it up, and sell it, so she can have a nice nest egg for when she gets married. Karen's a professional working in public relations, and seems very stable, until she gets in the house. She and her boyfriend set out to get the estate ready for sale. She hears tons of spooky noises, thinks she sees shadows, and has those trademark horror movie rapid-cut flashbacks that feel more like editing seizures than narrative. Then a horse leads her to a creepy-ass caretaker named Pierce (Sizemore), who seems to have had no human contact in the last decade, and has no idea the owner has passed on. Of course, boyfriend soon leaves her alone with creepy caretaker to sort through all of this, because no man would stick it out for long on a housecleaning project. Seems houses have tons of memories, and now Karen is having to face ones about the estate she's long suppressed. Her sister arrives as comfort, but still the spooky images keep coming. Worse than the shadows, Pierce seems to be getting more violent as well. I wonder if he has anything to do with Karen's frightening memories?
Groan moments abound in this tepid flick that doesn't know if it's a thriller or a horror movie. First one for me came when Karen is being attacked by the house, doing its best impersonation of The Haunting. She hears big, violent, stomping footsteps, and then a door throws her across a room and out a window. She literally falls several stories in to the waiting arms of Tom Sizemore, who catches her with no problem. I suddenly knew I was in bad B-movie-logic land. The movie feels like a direct-to-video feature, the kind of movie that would end up airing on cable after 3AM. And speaking of the number three, I love how in the end Tom Sizemore has to repeat each and every line three times to make his point. Yes, three times to make his point. He says lines three times to make a point.
The worst thing for any horror movie to do is bore you. Unfortunately Ring Around the Rosie is guilty of being super slow in the first couple of reels. The house isn't spooky, the landscape is too pretty, and only the creepy score provides any tension. There are tons of those false alarm boo moments Val Lewton made popular in Cat People (named "buses" in his honor). But once the show gets rolling, you start to wonder what all the spooky house moments were about when the film descends straight in to Cape Fear malice. Tom Sizemore suddenly acts creepier than Jack Nicholson in The Shining, and still nobody seems too alarmed. Then the rug gets pulled out in the last few minutes, and the movie crashes to a sudden halt it hadn't earned. There are a couple of twists that come late in the game which had me crying foul again and again.
At least the acting is somewhat solid, given they are working with a lame script. Gina Phillips is a horror hottie I wouldn't mind seeing in a better flick. She's believable even when she's given really stupid things to do. Tom Sizemore is fine as the creepy caretaker, giving it his best De Niro spin. Jenny Mollen (The Raven) plays the innocent blonde sister well, and Randall Batinkoff (School Ties) comes off fine as the sweet, understanding boyfriend. You certainly can't blame the game cast for any of the shortcomings. They try to infuse the movie with as much energy as they can muster. It's exhausting to watch them huff and puff bravely with a "go nowhere" plot holding them all back.
The transfer is solid, though I did notice an easily detectable wash of grain over the darker sequences in the film. Skin tones look good, but aggressive stylish tinting can sometimes make them look blue or on the pale side. Lights sometimes have halos around them in the darker scenes as well. The sound mix is pretty typical for a horror movie. Nice use of surrounds for atmosphere and the gotcha elements, but the front speakers are used most frequently. Extras? Not a single one to be found here, as apparently no one was available for comment. I think everyone snuck off the lot after filming wrapped and prayed this would never get released.
Ah well. It's not scary, but at least it has some competent actors in it. Ring Around the Rosie is just another notch on my belt as I wait for something unique and cool to hit the horror genre. This definitely ain't it. Rent it if you're desperate, and watch it only if that feeling increases. Unpleasant dreams kiddies. Ashes, ashes, the movie falls down!
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