Friday, April 15, 2005

The Ring Two

The Ring Two
Directed by Hideo Nakata
2005, rated PG-13
1 star

There are certain aspects a horror film must have to make it sufficiently scary and worthwhile. Firstly, some aspect of it must defy the laws of nature—ghosts, vampires, demonic dolls, leprechauns, Freddie Krueger—but be set in an area that looks as if it were the house next door. Secondly, it must be dimly lit, with little or no natural lighting, preferably all at night. Finally—and perhaps most importantly—it must be able to generate a sequel. After all, where would we be without Scream 1, 2, and 3, all 7 of the A Nightmare on Elm Street series, all 10 of the Friday the 13th series—not to mention the combination hit Freddy Vs Jason—and the 6 part Leprechaun series—which includes such brilliance in titles as Leprechaun in the Hood, and Leprechaun: Back 2 tha Hood. Now the immensely popular 2002 horror film The Ring—a remake of the 1998 Japanese version Ringu—can add to this proud tradition with The Ring Two, directed by Hideo Nakata.

Naomi Watts plays Rachel Keller, a journalist newly moved to a small, rural seacoast town from the big city. In the previous film, Rachel and her son Aidan (David Dorfman) only barely escaped from the murderous clutches of a video tape. Actually, it was the ghost of a murdered girl named Samara (Kelly Stables) trapped in the tape. Both in the this film and its predecessor, Samara kills anyone who had watched it after a week—unless they make a copy and pass it on for someone else to watch—by crawling out of a well, out of the TV screen, and drowning them. Rachel and Aidan, in an attempt to put the past behind them, are trying to make the best of their new, small-town life. Rachel has taken a job at the local newspaper and has even met a promising co-worker named Max (Simon Baker)—for where would any film be without the thrill of a love interest? Unfortunately, the Samara epidemic has spread enough to infect even this isolated locale, and Rachel and Aidan become re-involved upon the death of a local teenager who watched the tape. Now that Samara has found the two again, she is determined to escape from her cassette compound and inhabit a real human body. Since she always lacked a mother figure—one of the main issues in the previous film—Aidan seems the ideal person to occupy, with Rachel as the loving mother. What follows is the furious battle between a mother, and the evil impulses that have suddenly corrupted her son.

The Ring Two seems to pride itself on all the twists and turns it manages to cram into the storyline. This film has more complex folds than a piece of ornamental origami, but lacks the elegance and form. Instead of coming out as a graceful swan or crane, The Ring Two more resembles middle school love notes, the convoluted folds used not for form, but to conceal the actual content hidden deep inside. This film just tries too hard. It tries to link too many things together, and ends up either forgetting about them later, or lamely explaining them away. Links to previous seemingly random incidents—such as their car being attacked by a herd of 20 male deer, because there is always deer in the country—are left hanging, or suffer loose attempts at explanations—the deer are explained away by a pile of antlers that Rachel finds in the basement of Samara’s old house, but have no apparent relevance to any of the rest of the story.

Watts gives a mediocre performance as Rachel, and is pushed out of the limelight by her creepy son. Dorfman is definitely the scariest part of this film, his pale skin seeming to glow faintly in the continual darkness of the film. Yet, not even Dorfman and an appearance by Sissy Spacek as Samara’s institutionalized mother could save this film. Not nearly as chilling and frightening as the first, The Ring Two falls severely short of making it as a serious horror film. Next time, just keep the well closed.

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