The Ring Two
“The Ring Two” has a few delicious moments of creepy frights – most notably in the midst of its climactic sequence, when heroine Rachel faces down the won’t-stay-dead Samara. You’ll bite the nails off your fingers. In large part, however, the sequel will fail to impress the critics who acclaimed Gore Verbinski’s original adaptation of Hideo Nakata’s suspenseful “Ringu” – although it will certainly have audiences continuing to jump out of their seats as the “tape that kills” continues its march into urban legend history.
Naomi Watts and David Dorfman are back as Rachel and her son Aidan, and insomuch as characters are concerned, they deliver honest progressions from the first film to the second. The story picks up six months after the conclusion of “The Ring,” during which Rachel has picked up her life and moved it to rural Oregon in an attempt to distance herself from the horrifying events of the first film. But it’s not long before another mysterious death is traced back to an unmarked videotape, and as Rachel investigates, she discovers that Samara’s intentions are far more focused than before: Samara’s mad, and this time she’s after Aidan.
The protective mother syndrome provides a feral twinge to Rachel – she’s more fearless than in the original film, having walked this path before. And writer Ehren Kruger (who also penned the original film) offers up a new twist to the story in the apparent possession of the boy. But while this plot is new to “The Ring,” it’s not new to horror audiences. In fact, the plot rapidly dwindles from intriguing to drawn out to an absolute bore whose only marked difference from celluloid possession lore is the absence of a priest and a big ol’ cross slapped on Aidan’s forehead.
In the midst of this charmingly stolen concept, however, lies Nakata’s visionary direction, and “The Ring Two” delivers a suspenseful series of punches over the course of its run. In some cases, the frayed ends of the plotting undermine the effect, as when Rachel visits the basement of the house in which Samara used to live; the lights begin to blink out one by one, and the point-of-view delivered via steadycam lends the impression that she is about to be attacked… and then the film merely cuts away to a new scene. Those kinds of parlor tricks might pay off with the undiscerning film-goer, but they rankle those of us who appreciated the tense, superb weaving of “The Ring.”
There are themes of this film I wish would have been more adroitly explored: the feelings of accountability that should more explosively wrack Rachel after she set the demon free at the end of the first film… the irony of Samara’s mother (played by Sissy Spacek in a delightful cameo) raising her in a nunnery as an exploration of good versus evil… and the concept of the tape’s lore generating circles of thrill-chasers as explored in the short film that bridges the two films, “Rings.” This last invention, alas, was a brilliant derivation that suggested a direction for the sequel that might have been far more interesting than the bland continuation we received instead. That’s a shame.
It’s very likely that “The Ring Two” will actually enjoy more box office success than its predecessor, due to the late-breaking ground swell of affection for the first film. And for those seeking a second round of creepy thrills, they’re all here; “The Ring Two” has been smartly produced. But, perhaps inevitably, the film suffers from degenerative fear itself, and despite its production pedigree is a dead ringer for every Hollywood horror sequel ever created.