The Ring: Two
The sequel to the American remake of the 1998 Japanese horror flick "Ringu" fails to build suspense or fear. "Ringu" director Hideo Nakata presides over an image system based on the element of water as newspaper reporter Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts) attempts to settle into a new life with her haunted son Aidan (David Dorfman) in the coastal town of Astoria, Oregon. The video tape that kills those who watch it plays a lesser role here than it did in "The Ring." The primary tension focuses instead on the uneasy relationship between a confused mother and her semi-possessed child. Unexplained plot devices derail a Japanese-inflected horror story characteristically fueled by a mysterious longhaired ghoul-girl character.
We get a throwback scene to the first Ring movie with a teenage boy and girl sitting on a couch. The boy insists that the girl watch an underground videotape that he describes as the scariest film he’s even seen. Although she’s more interested in making out, he insists that she watch it and exits for the kitchen where he fields a dreaded phone call as he stresses about the girl watching the tape before his "one-week" deadline runs out. We don’t get to witness the cause of the sudden death that follows -- only the result. When Rachel arrives at the crime scene in her newspaper reporter mode we see the twisted face of terror on the fresh corpse. But it arrives as a horror device without sufficient context.
Rachel and her son Aidan have been trying to from escape the grimy clutches of Samara, a little ghost girl whose mother killed, or attempted to kill her as a result of postpartum depression. Things get especially inconsistent in the plot because Samara inhabits Aidan for much of the story. She exerts enough psychic kinetic power to cause at least one person to commit suicide. It begs a question as to why Samara doesn’t control Rachel’s mind to do her bidding since Samara is looking for a surrogate mother figure.
Hideo Nakata also directed a Japanese sequel to "Ringu," but it bears little resemblance to this redundant American follow-up. Nakata puts visual emphasis on the watery aspects of the story with long ponderous shots of bodies of water. He infuses every scene with shades of gray and blue that support his vision but don't add up to anything more than a slightly off-kilter sense of atmosphere. A lot is currently being made of the "extreme" horror cinema of Japan, but the films pale by comparison with those of Alfred Hitchcock or Roman Polanski. Horror filmmakers like Nakata would do well to study movies like Polanski’s "The Tenant" where information is steadily layered over a story toward a definate climax, or in the case of "The Tenant," a double climax.
"The Ring Two" is a horror movie with very few surprises and hit-or-miss moments of suspense. A climax occurs when a group of deer attack the car that Rachel and Aidan are riding in. It’s a big scene that really gets your heart racing. Animals are reacting to the evil that rides in Rachel’s car. But the scene feels pasted onto the script because it never resonates anywhere else.
Without Naomi Watts returning to make the sequel there would be no movie here. The skilled Australian actress does a bang up job with bringing a powerful sense of dread and desperation to her role. For the star whose career was jumpstarted when she made David Lynch’s "Mulholland Drive," audiences can only hope that she gets another golden opportunity to make such a riveting film as that one. Unfortunately, "The Ring Two" is not in the same ballpark with a truly great movie like "Mulholland Drive."
Rated PG-13. 110 mins. (C-) (Two Stars)