The Ring Two
Runtime: 1 hr 50 min
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Hideo Nakata
Starring: Naomi Watts, David Dorfman, Simon Baker, Elizabeth Perkins, Gary Cole, Sissy Spacek, Daveigh Chase
Too bad the film’s suspense evaporates so quickly.
Review by: MiamiMovieCritic
Added: 7 years ago
The Japanese horror craze continues with director Hideo Nakata’s sequel to 2002’s terrifying The Ring.
That film, based on Nakata’s Japanese horror blockbuster Ringu, spawned a series of Hollywood remakes that includes 2004’s The Grudge. Despite a promising beginning and a crowd-pleasing finale, The Ring Two is the least satisfying of the series so far.
In the twisty opening sequence, two teens, Jake (Ryan Merriman) and Emily (Emily VanCamp), are settling down to watch a video together. Yes, THAT video – the one that kills you seven days after you watch it. What was true in the first film is true here; even the simple sound of a telephone ringing adds new layers of dread.
Too bad the film’s suspense evaporates so quickly. Screenwriter Ehren Kruger, who also wrote the first Ring, doesn’t play off our anticipatory fears the way he did the first time. There’s no countdown to the seventh day in The Ring Two, and, as a consequence, the film drags between the horror scenes.
Since the events of the first film, big-city reporter Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts) has packed up her young son Aidan (David Dorfman) and moved to a seaside town in Oregon. Samara (Kelly Stables), the evil ghost behind the deadly videotape, still haunts Aidan’s dreams. She’s looking for a new mother (her previous guardian sealed her in a deep well before jumping off a cliff).
The Ring Two hinges on a familiar horror trope: demonic possession. Samara possesses Aidan in the hope of replacing him as Rachel’s child. This means much of the film rests on Dorfman’s slender shoulders. Nakata makes clever use of Dorfman’s expressive eyes to reveal Samara’s point of view. His creaky falsetto voice reminded me of little Danny Lloyd screaming “Red rum! Red rum!” in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining.
Sissy Spacek shows up briefly as Samara’s batty biological mother, Evelyn, who tried to drown her baby in a fountain. This is one of several plot points that allude to the Andrea Yates case. Much like the mentally ill Texas mother who submerged her five children in a bathtub, Rachel suffered from postpartum depression after giving birth to Aidan.
The filmmakers rely heavily on details from the original film, and this modest sequel is best viewed as a double feature with The Ring.
Nakata has risked confounding his audience by refusing to reiterate the rules set up in the first film. In a frightening twist on Bambi, a herd of deer attacks Rachel and Aidan along a winding stretch of road. But if you’ve forgotten about Samara’s knack for freaking out animals, this sequence will come across as silly and bizarre.
Confusion – and just plain boredom – gives us ample time to pick through holes in the plot. The original Ring may have failed to cohere completely, but we were too busy cowering in fear to notice. The Ring Two isn’t nearly as scary, so we’re left wondering why Samara can’t get into Rachel and Aidan’s dreams, or why the devil child hasn’t upgraded from video to DVD.
Nakata excels at flourishes of visual horror, especially in the scene where Samara performs a suspenseful crabwalk up a wall. But most of the film involves lukewarm scare tactics, like water seeping under doors or hands coming out to grab you.
After We Don’t Live Here Anymore and I Heart Huckabees, The Ring Two is a rare misstep for Watts. Her voice barely rises above a whisper in this film before the surprisingly satisfying conclusion, which appears to ensure there won’t be a Ring Three.