Almost 15 years after the Japanese horror phenomenon was first introduced to American audiences with The Ring, a new film, Rings, essentially reboots the legend of Samara, a troubled dead girl who communicates with the living via a foreboding and disjointed video tape that's still in circulation. Like many of us, Rings star Aimee Teegarden (Friday Night Lights) was in her early teens when The Ring came out, and she tells Bustle how she recalls being haunted by the movie long after it was over. "I remember being freaked out by phone calls for at least a couple months," she says with a laugh. But for the new film, in theaters now, Teegarden overcame her inner "scaredy cat," as she describes it, to take on the role of a morbidly artistic grad student.
And now intrigue has replaced fear. Thanks to its "watch a video and die seven days later" theme, The Ring trilogy has probably inspired more rounds of the "what would I do?" game than most horror franchises, and Teegarden admits that she'd likely press play on an allegedly cursed tape. "I probably would watch it, I don’t know," she says. "Curiosity killed the cat, right?"
That could be the tagline for the entire Ring series, but it's no surprise that it's Teegarden's mentality. The actor has more than dabbled in the fright fest genre before, with other roles including Jenny in Scream 4 and Abby in Beneath The Darkness, a 2011 film about a small-town killer masquerading as a pillar of the community. Taking on these roles is a part of her quest to keep her career diverse and "creatively fulfilling," she says, but Teegarden has learned that horror stands apart from other genres in one particular area. "The thing about horror that’s so fascinating and wonderful to me is the fans," she says. "They’re really just so die-hard and so invested, and that’s such a cool thing to be a part of."
In Rings, Teegarden joins a series that's always been led by women, an anomoly in film, especially horror. Naomi Watts starred in the first two Ring movies as journalist Rachel Keller, while Matilda Lutz picks up that investigatory baton in Rings. And of course, the entire mythology is centered around a young girl who's been abused, misjudged, and underestimated in life and in death. Across the board, the female characters in these films aren't the vapid scream queens of the exploitative slasher flicks of the past, something that Teegarden says she cared deeply about.
"I wake up every day and think about things like that," she says about gender equality on-screen. "I wish that we were in a different world, but that’s not the case." Fortunately, the actor sees a shift in gender representation occurring. "We are seeing a lot more self-sufficient women and girls in TV and film," she says. "It's really about the character."
In Rings, Teegarden's character Skye is refreshingly complex; she becomes exposed to Samara's legendary fury when she's compelled by a college professor to be a part of an experiment. Johnny Galecki plays Gabriel, an intellectual who's intent on exploring the deeper meaning of the cursed tape. Since his work is technically putting students in danger, the secret project is a bit of an ethical nightmare. It adds some philosophical weight to the film, Teegarden says. "There’s definitely some bigger questions to work through and think about," she explains. "Like how far would you go to find out if something like this could be a gateway to the other side?"
With ideas like that coming out of Rings, Teegarden gets to be part of the revival of a franchise that's not only near and dear to horror die-hards, but a welcome smart, female-led addition to the horror genre as a whole.