Robin CliffordAfter making a copy of Samara's cursed videotape to save her son Aidan (David Dorfman, "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" remake), Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts, "I Heart Huckabees") moves both of them to the coastal town of Astoria for a fresh start. The new home and job at the local paper don't assuage her guilt, however, and she's horrified when a teen turns up dead in circumstances that are all too familiar in "The Ring Two."
"The Ring Two" is enhanced by the introduction of original "Ringu" series director Hideo Nakata (also known for "Dark Water") but "The Ring's" writer, Ehren Kruger, circumvents the series' mythology in his new take on the sequel (this is not based on "Ringu 2"). After a very effective prologue, which implies "Ring Two" will ramp up its AIDS metaphor by tackling the consequences of consciously passing the curse along, the Samara antidote of tape copying is dropped in favor of a possession story. While this turn of events is disappointing, "The Ring Two" has some genuinely creepy moments and is more focused than Verbinski's original despite some lapses in logic.
In a scene that fairly screams 'this is a dream sequence!,' Samara (Kelly Stables) once again shows herself to Aidan, who gradually begins to exhibit signs of hypothermia as her spirit takes hold. Rachel turns to new coworker Max (Simon Baker, "The Affair of the Necklace") for help, but Rachel's dealing with Samara's spirit within her son makes Max suspect child abuse. When he insists Aidan be hospitalized, Rachel goes on a search for Samara's birth mother via the old Morgan horse farm. She succeeds in finding Evelyn (Sissy Spacek, "In the Bedroom") in an asylum, but the distraught woman gives her unnerving advice. Meanwhile Samara has sidestepped Dr. Emma Temple (Elizabeth Perkins, "The Flintstones") with a nasty bit of hypnotism and Aidan slips out of the hospital back to his new home.
"The Ring Two," with its focus on postpartum depression, 'listening to voices,' and child drownings invites uncomfortable comparisons to the Andrea Yates case. Although it has been proven time and time again that Aidan is psychic, Rachel insists he sit in a hot bath even though he is clearly terrified. Then she leaves to fetch personal belongings! Rachel is wracked with guilt over copying the videotape, but when she comes across a suspicious looking one at a local fair, she just leaves it there. Although the videotape concept is quickly dropped, the filmmakers prominently feature a television set in every room, even that of a solitary psych ward patient. The introduction of Evelyn is great for stunt casting, but does nothing for coherence.
Still, Nakata achieves some very startling set pieces. A buck which had seemed to communicate with Aidan attacks Rachel's car in a scene which plays like live action Miyazaki. A merry realtor (Gary Cole, "Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story") conducting an open house at the Morgan's farm adds a great dash of black humor. A series of digital pictures taken by Aidan reveal an animated Samara and tie back to the first film's distorted pictures of the doomed and never has the phrase 'I love you mommy' had such chilling innuendo. Even Nakata, though, falls into the extra ending trap, with another lapse in logic that implies a neverending cycle. The extra ending also includes reuse of the infamous "Exorcist" anniversary edition of the 'spider walk,' but so effectively (done by aptly named stuntwoman/contortionist Bonnie Morgan) the additional climax seems less extraneous.
If only "The Ring Two" had continued with the level of tension it begins with, when teenaged Jake (Ryan Merriman, "Spin") attempts to seduce Emily (Emily Vancamp, TV's "Everwood") with a scary tape, saving his life by trading hers. This may be the first sequel where I actually wish they'd made another copy.
Six months ago, Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts) left Seattle with her son, Aidan (David Dorfman), following her harrowing experience with a mysterious videotape that cause the death of its viewer. Now relocated to the quiet town of Astoria, Oregon, the past seems behind them until she learns of a local teen homicide, again involving a mysterious videotape, and it may prove that Samara is back in “The Ring Two.”
I was an immediate fan of Japanese director Hideo Nakata’s frightening “Ringu” and was dismayed by the heavy-handed remake helmed by Gore Verbinski, a filmmaker not known for his horror background. “The Ring” was a kitchen sink kind of film, eschewing the subtlety of the original for a story that needed to explain everything going on, leaving little to the film-goer’s imagination. I’m a firm believer that the best horror films are more psychological than visual and was glad to see Nakata as helmer for “The Ring Two.”
Rachel is working hard at the Daily Astorian as one of its new editor. When she uncovers the bizarre death of a local teenager she begins an investigation to see if her past nemesis, Samara, is still stalking her. Soon, though, it becomes obvious to her that the supernatural little girl from the well is after someone else – Aidan. When the boy is hospitalized because of hypothermia and signs of abuse, Rachel must clear herself of poor parenting pratices and stop the evil Samara Morgan (Kelly Stables) before the spirit can take her son away.
Since everyone is familiar with previous film and all of its explanations, director Nakata gets down to basics with a story by Ehren Kruger, the scribe of Verbinski’s “The Ring.” Things get down to basics right from the start as the videotape makes its appearance, once again, leaving its victim dead with his face contorted in a rictus of horror. Rachel, aware that Samara is on the prowl once again, now knows her enemy and the battle of wills is inevitable.
The Ring Two” works its suspense deftly (if a bit predictably) as the expected unfolds. Watts is more combative this time around as the mother lion bound and determined to protect her cub from supernatural evil. This is accomplished with a series of set pieces that carry the story forward to its final confrontation. No surprises here but along the way are some sequences that are honestly disconcerting. Two scenes in particular – one involving a herd of very pissed off reindeer, another a suspenseful race to escape from a well and Samara’s moist clutches – show originality and imagination.
Remaking Nakata’s original, “Ringu,” is a tall order, even for the helmer himself. But, he rolled up his sleeves and did a yeoman’s job in making somewhat fresh a story that, I hope, is over. I’m not up for The Ring Three,” if you ask me. I give it a C+.
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