The Ring Two
One genre of film that would appear to spawn more sequels than any other is the horror flick. Just think of the number of Freddy or Jason flicks and youíll see what I mean. In those cases the sequels where mostly camp, but the sad thing is some horror films are followed by a completely unnecessary sequel, Ring Two is such a film. In the original Ring the plot centered on a demonic video tape. If a person watches this bizarre collection of images the phone will ring and he or she will die seven days later. The only way to avoid your demise is to copy the tape and get someone else to watch it. Itís a bit ironic that in this digital age the vector of death is a mostly outmoded medium like the VHS tape. I guess the demons that possess people havenít gotten around to purchasing a DVD recorder yet. To make maters worse the lethal tape is full screen 4:3. This sequel begins a short time after the original left off, Rachael Keller (Naomi Watts) had managed to save her son Aidan (David Dorfman) from the deadly consequences of his viewing. Rachael felt that she solved the mystery of the tape when she discovered that it was entwined with the torturous life of a girl named Samara (Kelly Stables) who was eventually left to die in the bottom of a well. As films like this usually precede Rachael finds out that Samara is not yet through with her or her son. Here Rachael must fight not so much for the life of her son but to prevent Samara from taking over his body, nothing like a case of demonic possession to make a woman go into full blown maternal protective mode. The video tape is mostly abandoned as a plot point shortly after the start of the film; apparently Samara has moved on from demonic videos to wanting to take over the living. The two main motifs used to denote horror here are antlers and water. In the basement where Samara was tortured Rachel discovers an inordinate number of antlers. Later, while driving with her son the car is attacked by a group of deer. They thrust their head ornaments through the windows and generally cause a lot of damage that Rachel will find difficult to explain to her auto insurance company. Since Samara was dumped in a well water becomes the harbinger of doom as bath tubs over flow and when that is not sufficiently creepy the water begins to flow over the ceiling.
While there was some potential to be had here the script misses the mark completely. There was almost no sense of dread building in the film. For a horror film to succeed the audience has to identify with the characters but here the script precludes with emotional bond from ever being established. The antlers are too much of a gimmick to be taken seriously. Now I have been a city dweller for all my life but I doubt that a herd of deer would attack a car. Perhaps they sensed the evil growing in the boy but then again it could just be pay back for all those cars that have smashed into their brethren over the years. Bathtubs can be horror inducing, just watch What Lies Beneath and you will see what I mean. Here, there is no impending doom just a soggy mess. Since most of the back story was revealed in the original there was not much more that needed to be told. Sequels can add to the enjoyment of the original but here this is a gratuitous and completely unnecessary flick that was only made because the first film grossed well at the box office.
One of the saddest things here is the waste of a talented actress. I have enjoyed the varied roles taken on by Naomi Watts, I even liked her campy performance in Tank Girl, but this film gave her absolutely nothing to work with. She gets to run around, scream, research old news papers and dodge thousands of gallons of water but there was nothing that remotely required acting. Watts does her best and that is appreciated but even her talent could not save this film. David Dorfman as the son is too dour to allow the audience to truly care about his plight. It seems that he was trying too hard to give an adult performance where there should have been more of the little boy present prior to his possession. This would have at least helped the audience to worry about him. Kelly Stables as the evil Samara is little more than a creepy face set in a mess of hair. This is a hair style that would make Dee Schneider cringe.
This opus was directed by Hideo Nakata, who directed the Japanese original Ringu and its sequel Ringu 2. He just didnít manage to transfer his work over to an American audience. The pacing was much too slow. While every good horror film requires exposition to set up the rules of that particular world, most of that was done in the first film and did not need quite so much here. The scenes where Rachael investigates what is happening is a touch too long dragging the action down to a crawl instead of giving a pace change such as is found in most films of this genre. The lighting is dark and moody, perfect to reinforce the feeling the director is conveying to the audience. The scenes are block very well with nice attention to detail. This director has talent but here it was not given the proper showcase.
Universal is the top name in horror, this has been true from the beginnings of the film genre in the thirties. Here, they give the film the best possible release on DVD. They have three separate versions of the film for this release; the theatrical PG-13 version available in full screen and both a pan & scan or widescreen unrated version. If you are considering the purchase of this film you might as well stick to the unrated widescreen. All of them sport a Dolby 5.1 audio which is very well produced and provides an excellent sound field. The creepy effects will surround your living room. The color palette is dark but the colors remained true and free of artifacts. If you where a fan of the first Ring flick or if you have the Japanese versions and want to compare you might want to give this a try. Mostly, it would be better to catch this one some late night on cable.