The Ring Two Review

The opening scene of The Ring Two is oddly reassuring. A teenage boy tries to convince his girlfriend to watch a scary video. The phone rings, then water starts trickling under the doors. We've been here before. And there's the problem with horror sequels. They want to unnerve us but sequels by their nature are comfortingly familiar. The Ring Two never overcomes that initial feeling of familiarity. It doesn't help that this is the fifth Ring film, counting the Japanese trilogy, but even if you've only seen the Hollywood remake, there's little here that will surprise you.

The Ring Two begins with Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts) and her son Aidan (David Dorfman) having moved from Seattle to the smaller town of Astoria. They've survived the cursed videotape and the demon child Samara who was behind it and now they want to move on and put the horrible events of their past behind them. Unfortunately, it isn't long before the past catches up with them. A local teenager dies mysteriously, with a grotesque look of terror on his face. Rachel, who works for the local paper, investigates and discovers a copy of Samara's tape in his VCR. She burns it but, by doing so, she attracts the evil spirit's attention once again and this time it comes after her son. Aidan has vivid nightmares. His body develops marks and bruises. His temperature drops alarmingly for no apparent reason. Rachel knows Samara is involved but she can't figure out the ghost's intentions.

The sequel is directed by Hideo Nakata, who made the original Japanese Ringu and kickstarted the Asian horror craze, yet ironically, his sequel is more like a compromised Hollywood version than its predecessor, which was made by Gore Verbinski, director of Pirates Of The Caribbean. The nasty sting of the Japanese original, which Verbinski kept intact, is missing. The ending this time is astonishingly pat and comes complete with a kiss-off line that inspires the wrong kind of laughs.

That's not Nakata's fault. His direction is excellent and he does generate some tension in places. The sequel is technically superb. The inevitable computer-generated special effects are seamless and far better deployed than the attention-hogging CGI in Constantine. Washington State, where the story is set, is handsomely photographed by Gabriel Beristain - the film could double as a tourism commercial for the Pacific Northwest. The acting is well above average for the genre. Naomi Watts and David Dorfman both give impressive performances and there are effective cameos by Elizabeth Perkins, Sissy Spacek and the great Gary Cole, who provides the only comic relief as a cheerfully dishonest estate agent.

I do wish today's Asian-influenced horror films would make room for a little more humour. They take themselves so terribly seriously, even garbage like Boogeyman which could only have worked as a comedy. Their makers seem to operate under the false assumption that laughter would spoil the atmosphere. Wrong. Humour draws an audience into a story and it makes characters more likeable, thus lowering the audience's defences and making them more susceptible to fear. Look at Jaws, which has more laughs than most comedies and is at the same time a masterpiece of sustained terror.

Even more crucially, The Ring Two lacks an involving and suspenseful story. It's long, rambling and a bit of a bore. The film works only in short bursts, in sharply edited set-pieces. They make you jump, then they're over and the movie slows right back down again and ambles along until it's time for the next scare. Take the attack on Rachel's car by a herd of deer, who are presumably under Samara's influence. The assault does provide a couple of major jolts but that's all. It makes little sense in terms of the plot and once the initial shock has worn off, it looks rather silly because, let's face it, deer are not scary animals. And don't get me started on the film's climax.

The blame lies with screenwriter Ehren Kruger. His story, which is original and not based on the Japanese sequels, wisely leaves the videotapes behind early on and tries to do something different. However, Kruger's idea of something different is just a simple tale of demonic possession. As such, the only real surprise is the absence of any Catholic priests. Adding to the familiarity, the story follows the same basic structure as the first film, with Naomi Watts once again heading for Samara's old stomping grounds to find answers.

Too many elements of the film are second hand. The scenes in the bath, which are crucial to the possession plot come merely two weeks after Constantine made similar use of a tub. Scary children have been done to death recently. Following Godsend, The Grudge, Hide And Seek and now this, scowling kids with pale faces and dark eye-shadow should now be retired until someone can think of something new to do with them. What else? There's a hidden diary with creepy drawings in it, a visit to a lunatic asylum, a couple of reasonably inventive killings - nothing that you haven't seen in a hundred other horror movies. The Ring Two isn't even the first sequel to spell out the Two in the title - Pet Sematary Two did that thirteen years ago.

Overall

5

out of 10

Last updated: 03/05/2018 14:00:38

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