Warning: SPOILERS ahead for Rings

It may have taken 12 years, but we’ve finally gotten a follow-up to 2005’s The Ring Two in the shape of Rings, which arrived in theaters this weekend. An indirect continuation of the series that more or less ignores the events of The Ring Two, Rings features an all new cast of characters who fall foul of vengeful spirit Samara’s cursed video tape, which condemns its viewers to death after seven days (with a polite phone call to warn them of their fate). The movie seeks to bring the analog horror of the first two Ring films to the digital age, introducing viral video and instant messaging to the original premise of Samara haunting a mysterious VHS that keeps getting passed around because of morbid curiosity and hearsay.

As with previous instalments, one of the focal points of the movie is Samara’s backstory and her powers. Her and her family’s history have been explained in the previous two films, albeit in a fragmented capacity, but big questions continue to linger over the young girl before she started crawling out of people’s TV screens, and the exact origin and extent of her supernatural abilities. Here’s a refresher of exactly what we do know about Samara Morgan and her transition from innocent eight-year-old to vindictive spectre, as well as the grim new details that are revealed in Rings.

Early life

The Ring Samara in hospital Rings: Samaras Origins Explained


Samara was born in 1970 to her mother, Evelyn. Her father, Burke, was a priest who raped her mother and kept her captive, only letting her free when she was eight months pregnant. Samara never cried, even as a newborn, which alarmed Evelyn. During her post-natal stay at a hospital run by nuns, Evelyn was caught trying to drown Samara in order to “cleanse her of evil spirits,” as Evelyn claims she was commanded. Samara was put up for adoption and Evelyn was sent to a psychiatric asylum.

Anna and Richard Morgan eventually adopt Samara and bring her to their ranch on Moesko island. All’s well for a time, before Samara’s powers begin to develop and grow and she starts accidentally terrorizing her adoptive parents. Anna receives treatment for depression and suicidal thoughts while Samara is tested and examined, leading the doctors to discover her abilities – she can project and burn images onto surfaces and people’s minds, otherwise known as “thoughtography.” When done on something like a wall the result is a charred outline, but when projected at a person they suffer great physical and mental pain as an image is seared into their psyche.

Despite this discovery and amidst her continuing examination, Richard discharges both Samara and Anna and brings them home. The footage of the doctors interviewing Samara and discovering her powers is hidden from the record.

Powers And Eventual Death

The Ring Samara Rings: Samaras Origins Explained


Samara’s room is moved into the barn in order to confine her. Increasingly bored and lonely, she begins testing out her powers by burning an image of a tree onto the wall – an image that becomes a big reveal in the movies. Soon, she moves onto other living creatures, causing many of the ranch’s horses to kill themselves by running off the cliff of the island. Anna readmits herself to hospital in the wake of this out of shock, meanwhile a large-scale investigation begins that yields nothing, everyone unaware of Samara’s capabilities.

In an effort to achieve some peace, Richard and Anna take Samara to Shelter Mountain Inn for a family retreat. Anna, who has figured out the dangers of Samara’s presence, has an ulterior motive with the trip and attempts to kill her. First blindfolding her with a bag and knocking her out, Anna throws Samara down a well, never to be seen again. Knowing what she’d done Anna kills herself when she and Richard return to the ranch.

With that last image of Anna closing over the well seared in her mind, Samara fights to survive and climb out for seven days before succumbing to starvation and drowning. In death she becomes a vengeful spirit trapped within the well, waiting to be set free so she may seek vengeance. Soon some cabins are built over the site, with cabin 12 laying directly over the well itself. Imprinting herself on a VHS in the VCR of that cabin, Samara haunts the tape in order to seek vengeance for how she was treated in life. Viewing the footage held therein temporarily frees Samara in order to find and kill the viewer, before she must return to its confines.

The Spreading Curse

rings Rings: Samaras Origins Explained


As time passes, the tape becomes an urban myth moving from person-to-person. Anyone who views it has to find another within seven days or they are the one killed, creating a morbid cult following around its existence. This turns into a game of reaction videos, as seen by a group of cocky college students in Rings. Meanwhile, Samara’s remains are dug up and placed under the bell-tower her mother was held captive in by her birth father, Burke, in order to bind him from being targeted by her.

The exact reason why Samara had those powers in the first place is unknown, as are her full capabilities as a ghost. In The Ring Two, she’s observed possessing a young boy and she’s seen manipulating bodies of water on several occasions. But these questions all pale in comparison to the big one – can the protagonists of Rings finally break the curse and lay Samara to rest, once and for all?

Next: Rings Review