© 2005 Ray Wong
Stars: Naomi Watts, Simon Baker, David Dorfman, Elizabeth Perkins, Gary Cole, Sissy Spacek, Ryan Merriman, Emily VanCamp, Kelly Stables
Director: Hideo Nakata
Writer: Ehren Kruger
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence, disturbing images, some language
Running time: 111 minutes
Script – 3
Performance – 7
Direction – 5
Cinematography – 7
Editing – 6
Production – 7
Total Score – 5.8 out of 10
When the first THE RING came out in 2002 (after the Korean original and the Japanese remake, RINGU), it was a surprise hit. It managed to rejuvenate the horror genre by incorporating good (female) characters, supernatural creepiness, scary suspense, and an interesting mystery at its core. DreamWorks intended to follow up with a worthy sequel. The result, unfortunately, is disappointing.
Picking up six months after THE RING, the story begins as single mother Rachel and her son Aidan leave Seattle for a quiet, small neighborhood in Astoria, Oregon. The peaceful transition doesn’t last long when a local teenager dies after watching a strange videotape. Rachel realizes that the copy of the tape she made for Aidan must have gotten out, and now the evil Samara has followed them to Astoria.
Soon, Aidan displays strange behaviors and has nightmares and night sweats. His body temperature also drops to 5 degrees below normal. Rachel discovers the true reason why Samara follows them. To save Aidan’s life, Rachel must find Samara’s origin and put her away forever.
Watts (I HEART HUCKABEES) reprises her role as Rachel with the same intensity and naiveté. She is one of the few genre heroines that are both vulnerable and strong at the same time. Her scenes with Dorfman (THE SINGING DETECTIVE), who also reprises his role as Aidan, are very authentic. Dorfman has a droll, almost creepy quality to him that during certain scenes, you don’t know if Rachel should believe or abandon him.
THE RING TWO is essentially two-and-a-half-person movie. The half would be Samara, played here by Stables (PRIDE AND PREJUDICE). While Samara is a formidable antagonist in the film, and she shows up more frequently than in the original, her role is actually less threatening. Probably because there is nothing new in her ability. We have seen it all before. Baker (TV’s GUARDIAN) has a minor role as Max, Rachel’s colleague at the Daily Astoria. His character is too arbitrary to make any substantial impression. Other minor characters include Perkins (28 DAYS) as a snide psychiatrist, Cole (DODGEBALL) as a real estate agent, VanCamp (NO GOOD DEED) and Merriman (HALOWEEN: RESSURRECTION) as a pair of doomed teenagers. Rounding out the cast is Spacek (A HOME AT THE END OF THE WORLD), rather wasted as Samara’s deranged birthmother.
To prove their serious intention for the sequel, the producers hired RINGU director Nakata to direct. Despite the fact that Nakata also directed RING 2 in Japan, the two films actually have different plots. In a way, it is a good choice because Nakata brings a certain authenticity to the project. You can see the Asian elements in his vision, from the long, languid shots to the symbolic sceneries and compositions. On the other hand, I feel that the Japanese filmmaking and storytelling styles do not suit the American taste very well. Like THE GRUDGE – another Japanese horror-inspired American film directed by a Japanese – THE RING TWO often lacks enough plot movement and suspense to engage the audience. The film becomes burdened by the weight of its symbolisms and mood settings.
To add to the problem, the script, written by Kruger (THE RING), is simply dull. As a horror film, it fails miserably, offering not nearly enough scary moments. As a suspense/thriller, the tension is flat and the plot lacks movement and urgency. As a mystery, the pursuit and revelation are mundane and weak. Except for Rachel and Aidan, the characters are all throwaways. For example, Max is the token male character that gets even less screen time and importance than Noah in the original. Spacek’s role is reduced to a stereotype. There are many plot holes that baffle the mind. For example, as Aidan becomes gravely ill, Rachel doesn’t even think of taking him to the hospital. And no explanation is given as to how the teenagers get ahold of the tape and how they know so much about it. Compared to Kruger’s effort in THE RING, this script is a major disappointment.
Granted, there are a few good scenes and special effects, including a bathtub scene that offers a neat twist to all the bathtub scenes we have seen before. The deer attack also has a bizarre OMEN-esque quality to it. However, there are also many scenes that could be so much more, yet their potential is simply wasted. For example, when Rachel is in the basement of the Morgan house, or when she visits Samara’s birthmother, one can’t help but expect something incredible to happen. The result is utter disappointment. Not to mention they humanizes Samara so much that she is no longer scary, as she was in the original. That is perhaps THE RING TWO’s most fatal flaw. The story doesn’t ring true anymore.