Given that “The Ring Two” is the sequel to the remake of a film which itself has spawned a franchise in addition to a legion of imitators, it was never likely to win any prizes for originality. The only real point of interest for genre fans is the fact that it is directed by Hideo Nakata, the man responsible for the original Japanese “Ringu”, the film whose international success opened the floodgates of Asian horror for Western viewers.
Unfortunately, although Nakata’s presence promises much, it counts for very little, as the film is an absolute bore, a by the numbers studio picture aimed firmly at the teen demographic, and lacking in any of the ruthless chills which made the original so memorable. Instead of attempting anything new, or worse still, horrific, Nakata lamely plunders his own films, rehashing ideas which have already been copied ad infinitum, and chooses to make this wholly unnecessary sequel yet another entry in the inexplicably popular ‘possessed child’ sub-genre. As a result, “The Ring Two” is a complete failure, coming across as a weak mixture of the director’s previous effort, “Dark Water”, and recent flops such as “Godsend” and “Hide and Seek” — a prospect which is sure to terrify horror fans for all the wrong reasons.
The plot takes up a few months after the end of its predecessor, with reporter Rachel (a returning Naomi Watts) and her son Aidan (David Dorfman, who also played a creepy kid in the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” remake) having relocated to Oregon in an attempt to put the events of the past behind them. Unfortunately, it seems that sinister video goblin Samara is not finished with them yet, as a young teen couple turn up dead in familiar circumstances. Although Rachel manages to destroy the videotape, her son is soon acting strangely, and it becomes clear that the evil spirit has her own plans for him, or more precisely, for his body.
There are countless films with similar plots as “The Ring Two”, and it is a real shame that Nakata and writer Ehren Kruger (who also wrote the original remake, as well as cursing the genre with the bloated histrionics of “Scream 3”) decided to take such a well-traveled route. The premise at the heart of the ‘Ringu’ mythos is one with considerable potential for expansion and elaboration, as already shown by the Japanese sequels, both of which provided fairly leftfield takes on the material. However, Nakata here dispenses with the ‘cursed video’ concept almost entirely, paying only lip service to the previous film, and instead focusing entirely on Samara’s attempts to take over the son’s body.
This completely undermines what is a very strong central gambit, and those expecting scares along the lines of the original will be sorely disappointed. In fact, Nakata has produced a film almost devoid of frights, as apart from a bizarre CGI deer attack and a couple of the expected sequences where Samara crawls out of televisions, there is very little effort made to raise the viewer’s pulse. Instead, we are given countless scenes of exposition and flashbacks which attempt, quite needlessly, to further flesh out the character of the ghost. Unfortunately, none of these are particularly interesting, and are in fact counterproductive, detracting from Samara’s effectiveness as a cold force of evil, and instead establishing her as a little girl whose motivation for killing and cursing is simply to find a mother who loves her.
This last part was a concept which Nakata has already tackled and to far better affect in “Dark Water”, from which he also borrows the devastatingly unfrightening over use of ‘possessed water’. As well as achieving the impossible by making “The Ring Two” seem even less original, this depressing self-plagiarism goes one further, by effectively invalidating the forthcoming “Dark Water” remake itself.
In addition to reducing the amount of scare scenes in the film, all of this long-winded melodrama reduces the pace to a sluggish crawl. Nakata’s direction is disappointingly anonymous and without any flair or style, and in a fashion which belies his past successes. There is no real reason why his talents should not translate to Hollywood cinema, and as such he gives the impression of being supremely uninterested, a feeling which the viewer sadly soon comes to share.
Simply put, there is nothing about “The Ring Two” which makes it worth watching. Indifferently made and written, and with no ambition whatsoever regarding entertainment, it is a hollow exercise in money making, and one which hopefully signals the end of a franchise which has already, rather ironically, come to resemble its own cursed video concept.
Hideo Nakata (director) / Koji Suzuki (novel Ringu), Hiroshi Takahashi (1998 film Ringu), Ehren Kruger (screenplay)
CAST: Naomi Watts …. Rachel Keller
Simon Baker …. Max Rourke
David Dorfman …. Aidan Keller
Gary Cole …. Martin Savide
Sissy Spacek …. Evelyn