The Ring 2 (2005) – J-Horror Film Review
This is the sequel to THE RING(2002), the American remake of the excellent Japanese horror film RINGU, which itself spawned a RINGU 2 (although there is no connection between the plots of the two sequels). Interestingly, Hideo Nakata (who helmed both RINGUand RINGU 2) was hired to direct the American sequel, and he does manage to bring back at least a small amount of the eerie dread that permeated the original RINGU. Unfortunately, the screenplay by Ehren Kruger is littered with plot holes that reduce the story to a generic thriller formula, abandoning the realistic sense of tragedy and compassion that elevated the original film to masterpiece status.
The story begins with a teenage boy trying (and failing) to convince a girl to watch the killer videotape before his time runs out (as established in the first film, anyone who sees the tape has seven days to make a copy and show it to someone else; otherwise, the vengeful ghost of Samara will strike). The subsequent death catches the eye of reporter Rachel Kelly (Naomi Watts), who moved herself and her son Aidan (David Dorfman) to a new town to escape the events of THE RING. Rachel finds and destroys a copy of the video, but Samara refuses to rest easily in her grave, instead attempting to possess Aidan. Rachel retraces some of the territory covered in the previous film and discovers that Samara Morgan was actually the adopted daughter of Richard and Ann Morgan (a plot point suggested but not clarified in the first film, which left open the possibility that Samara might have been the result of some kind of in vitro fertilization or other medical process). Rachel tracks down Samara’s real mother Evelyn (Sissy Spacek), who is in an institution since trying to drown Samara as a baby. Prodded by both Evelyn and Aidan, Rachel reluctantly realizes that the only way to “exorcise” Aidan is by drowning him—death by drowning being the one thing that will frighten Samara out of his body. This proves to be insufficient, however, and Samara drags Rachel into a sort of dream reality inside the television set, where Rachel managed to seal top of the well in which Samara was drowned by her mother in the first film.
The plot problems with the film begin almost immediately. Realizing that the killer videotape has spread to her new city, Rachel (who made a copy to save her son at the end of THE RING), says, “We only made one copy.” She then burns the copy she finds at the scene of Samara’s most recent victim. The script seems to take for granted that this is the only copy in existence, ignoring the fact that, according the rules established in part one, everyone who has seen the tape since them could only save himself by making another copy. After Rachel destroys the tape, the see-the-tape-and-you-die plot is entirely abandoned, and Samara seems to be able to strike anywhere at will—leaving viewers to ponder why she ever bothered with the tape in the first place.
The film then turns into a fairly standard supernatural possession story, with David Dorfman trying to outdo his spooky kid shtick from the first film, to no great effect. Along the way, Samara claims at least two more victims, but nobody seems to notice or care very much. One of them is a hospital psychiatrist (Elizabeth Perkins), whose demise should have stirred a considerable ruckus, possibly involving the police. The other is a helpful family friend (Max Rourke), who is almost immediately forgotten. Rather like the “The Three Little Pigs,” we’re not expected to shed any tears over the early deaths as long as our audience identification figure survives for the happy ending. This works well in a fairy tale, but the indifferent approach to the victims’ deaths diminishes the horror in a serious motion thriller.
The film does have its virtues, fortunately. An early attack on a car by some heavy-antlered deer (who sense Samara’s presence in Aidan) is handled in a perfectly knuckle-whitening fashion (even if it is basically a rehash of the monkey scene from THE OMEN). Spacek does a good job in her single scene, and Gary Cole is hilarious in a brief turn as a realtor looking to foist the old Morgan property on some unsuspecting buyer (asked what happened to the previous owner, he barely misses a beat before lying: “I think they moved to a condo in Phoenix”).
Even better, the script tries to reintroduce some of the supernatural back-story for Samara that was abandoned in THE RING, which revealed little about her origins. THE RING TWO, like RINGU, presents Samara as a fatherless child—not quite a virgin birth, more the result of a supernatural intercession (in RINGU, a sea monster or perhaps the sea itself; in THE RING TWO, the “dark waters” of the afterlife). THE RING TWO also resumes the effective technique of hiding the sinister ghosts face behind her long black hair and reducing her to being almost mute—turning her into a mysterious figure of evil almost beyond comprehension.
Even here, the script falters, with Rachel realizing at the end that what Samara wants is not so much to possess Aidan as to acquire a “mother.” Nothing in the previous film, and little in the sequel, supports this contention, and it begs the question of why Samara is indifferent to her real mother, who is still alive. But it is a convenient excuse to introduce the genre convention of the protective mother ready to sacrifice herself to save her son—a plot element previously used in the Japanese horror film DARK WATER (which, like THE RING, was based on a novel by Koji Suzuki).
In the end, THE RING TWO is marginally preferable to THE RING because it is less of a rehash of RINGU, providing some new variations on the familiar theme, instead of simply translating a Japanese masterpiece into a mediocre English-language remake. Still, it falls far short of the original RINGU.
We never learn to whom Rachel and Aidan showed the copy of the killer videotape they made at the end of THE RING. The script for THE RING had them give the copy to a pedophile (played by Chris Cooper) who had tried to get Rachel to write a story exonerating him (she brushed him off because she knew he was lying). Although not included among the bonus material on the DVD for THE RING, these scenes were apparently shot (a still photo of Cooper is visible in a newspaper). In any case, this creates a plot hole in the sequel. We know Rachel and Aidan had to show the tape to somebody (Rachel tells her son they didn’t do anything wrong; they just did what anybody else would have done under the circumstances). We also know they must have explained to that somebody how to avoid death; otherwise, the curse would have ended, and there would have been no new copy of the tape to show up in their new home town. (The Japanese film RINGU made it clear that the lady reporter was asking her father to watch the tape to save his grandson’s life.)
Although a sequel to THE RING, much of the plot seems more similar to DARK WATER, another Japanese horror film based on a novel by Koji Suzuki. Particularly similar are the water imagery associated with the ghost’s manifestations and the portrayal of the dead daughter as searching for a replacement “mommy.” Perhaps not coincidentally, DARK WATER is also being remade as an American film, starring Jennifer Connolly (who was at one time offered the lead in THE RING).
Daveigh Chase, who played Samara in THE RING, is credited in THE RING TWO, although she shot no new footage. In keeping with Hideo Nakata’s approach to the ghost, Samara’s face is usually hidden by her long black hair during her brief visitations, so that the new footage could be filmed with a stunt double. Chase’s face is glimpsed occasionally, via optically manipulated outtakes from THE RING.
As in THE RING, the music score utilizes a distinctive 6/8-time motif very reminiscent of the main theme from Goblin’s soundtrack for SUSPIRIA (1977).
THE RING TWO (2005). Directed by Hideo Nakata. Screenplay by Ehren Kruger, inspired by the novel by Koji Suzuki and the film RINGU directed by Nakata and written by Hiroshi Takahashi. Cast: Naomi Watts, David Dorfman, Max Rourke, Sissy Spacek, Gary Cole.