Ring Two, The
Starring:
Naomi Watts, Daveigh Chase, David Dorfman, Simon Baker, Sissy Spacek
Directed By:
Hideo Nakata
Grade
C-

The Ring Two is just more proof that Hollywood can't help but screw up a good thing. How often does a good horror or sci-fi flick come out only to have a sequel come along that completely ruins the mystique built up by the original? Look at The Blair Witch Project, which was a surprisingly interesting horror flick that got a mediocre following that ended up killing the series. Even though The Ring Two is directed by Hideo Nakata, the man who helmed the original Japanese version, the film shows obvious signs that it was nothing more than a studio piece, being retooled on more than one occasion, leaving behind a film that ultimately feels unfinished.

The story begins a lot like the original, with a high school student dying horribly because he watched the tape. If you had seen the short film on the Rings DVD, you'd understand the backstory that leads up to the opening sequence. At this point, viewers are shown that Rachel (Watts) and Aidan (Dorfman) have moved to Astoria, Oregon, in hopes of starting over. But not long after they get there and settle in, Rachel finds another copy of the cursed tape. Unfortunately, she destroys the tape, which releases the monstrous Samara, who proceeds to possess Aidan so that Rachel can be her new mother. Because of Aidan's possession, Rachel is forced to find out about Samara and tracks down her birth mother (Spacek), who basically gives her cryptic hints as to what she must do - kill her own child to destroy Samara.

If reading that quick synopsis made you cringe, then watching the actually movie isn't going to help much. Even though it's directed by Nakata and written by The Ring scribe Ehren Kruger, The Ring Two reeks of being manhandled by the studio into slapping together a film in time for release. Considering the production underwent script rewrites, a change in director, a four month delay and crew changes, what we've managed to finally get is a film that at points doesn't even feel finished, as if was cobbled together with the remnants of what was shot.

After seeing the Rings DVD, I have to wonder what happened. The short film that lead into this sequel showed lots of promise and gave us an angle that was actually interesting. Once in the movie, that angle is completely thrown away for a more basic tale. There are segments of the film that are largely underdeveloped, like Spacek's part, and others that could have been cut out all together, such as the sequence with the psychologist/social worker. And then, there's the fact that the ending features a really hokey element in which Rachel is dragged into the world of the videotape.

When it comes to the performances, Watts and Dorfman work adequately. Considering how little of the rest of the cast actually get any screen time, they have to be good enough to carry the film. Unlike the first film, The Ring Two doesn't have any additional characters who help to flesh out the story, giving Watts a counterbalance. There's no Martin Henderson or Brian Cox to provide a "sounding board" for Watts. Dorfman is once again sharp as the oddly mature son, but only really loses some of his uniqueness when he is possessed, at which point he just feels like the "same old creepy kid" that shows up in so many of these films. Though Sissy Spacek shows up in the movie as Samara's birth mother, her portion is so small that it fails to be worth the money I'm sure she got, which is a shame because I really think her portion could have been a stronger aspect than what we got.

Following the theme of water, which shows obvious links to the original novel and Ringu, The Ring Two features a lot of water oriented special effects, some of which look amazing in execution, while others look blatantly obvious. Along with these are some more ghost oriented effects, which also tend to be more insidious and effective. The scares in The Ring Two are rather inconsistent in delivery. Some are more creepy, like the sequence with Aidan in the bathroom at the antique fair, while others involve jack-in-the-box scares that are hugely out of place for the story. This time around, Samara is shown off often, giving her a more slasher-flick feeling, rather than the more psychological flair she had in the first film. By the time you get to her computer generated appearance late in the film, any degree of fear or horror she may have evoked is gone. This is only redeemed temporarily by a creepy and tense well sequence at the final climax.

If you can divorce yourself from the fact that The Ring Two fails miserably in recapturing the spirit of the first film, you might enjoy this film at a matinee price. There are some well-shot sequences that tend to get lost in the film, as if a more artistic flair got caught up in the production by accident. Fans of the Ring series will likely want to see this, but I strongly urge you not to waste full price as this film just isn't much better than most of the horror films that have been released lately.

- - Kinderfeld

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