The Ring Two Review
Director Hideo Nakata’s presence at the helm of Dreamworks’ sequel to their own remake of Nakata’s earlier Japanese original Ring, must have been quite a scoop for the studio. After all, his influential work in Japan had revitalised the horror film in the east, whilst the west happily retread old ground. It’s a shame then that his name above the ‘director’ credit proves to be little more than a good promotional gimmick, as even he cannot save a poor film that suffers from incoherent, illogical plotting, and characters as lifeless as the ghosts the film speaks of.
Rachel (Naomi Watts) and her son Aidan (David Dorfman) have moved away from Seattle and the horrible reminders of that cursed videotape, setting up home in Astoria. When a young teenager is found dead at home, inquisitive Rachel heads to the crime scene fearing it may have something to do with the curse. Finding the boy’s dead body, it resembles those that she’d seen killed before, so she breaks into the house and finds the very thing she was so afraid of – a copy of the tape. In an effort to stop the terror from starting again she burns the tape but not all is well. Her son begins to have nightmares of the little girl from the video, and the ghost of her body appears in photographs Aidan takes. Is Aidan possessed by the girl Samara, and how can Rachel save her son?
Ultimately, The Ring Two suffers at the hands of screenwriter Ehren Kruger who seems to be drawing on the same turgid formula that made his previous work on Scream 3 and Reindeer Games so unappealing. He takes the ‘Ring’ mythology into new territory, but crucially provides nothing new, making a typical western horror film designed for a pre-determined market, based on pre-determined clichés. Certainly, the loss of the superb premise which gave the original remake such pot-boiling tension (that being the videotape’s seven day death sentence), gravely harms the film from the outset because our expectation is compromised but is anchored by conditions set-out in the first film. Kruger’s ambition to take the story in a new direction should be commended, but the fact he strays too far away from the original’s constraints means we’re exposed to convoluted exposition, making for a movie that lacks drive through its ambiguity and weak plotting, thus sapping tension away, with each silly and uninspired cat-jumping-out-of-the-cupboard moment acting as a cruel reminder that we’re watching one very dull movie.
So dull in fact, we simply cannot engage with the characters, especially young actor David Dorfman whose odd performance lacks some of the restrained nuances that made him so effective in The Ring. Kruger’s over-loaded plot engulfs the characters, leaving little room for their development, and he takes liberties to push the story forward such as Dorfman’s sudden all-knowing knowledge of how to protect himself and his mother. Kruger’s characters become extraneous components to an over-zealous plot, as if their actions are more his own reactions to plot holes he finds himself digging, so we ultimately care for them as little as he does. Essentially, Kruger’s push to bring something new to the series of films, including those made in Japan, formulates on a set of clichés, and his original story swallows rather than motivates his characters, leaving us with a film that fails to engage its viewer, and is severely devoid of suspense.
It is a shame that director Nakata is stifled by Kruger’s script but there isn’t much he can do. He maintains a cold, atmospheric tone throughout, and delivers the odd shock to the system, but his bitter ambience and cold photography only place a gloss finish to the film’s fundamental inadequacies. Nakata is blessed with another solid turn from actress Naomi Watts who tries hard with the material but as the gimmicks and clichés mount up, she’s another stifled component of Kruger’s failures. The Ring Two is a rather stylish mess that tries to please but lacks the qualities that made the original American remake so surprisingly enjoyable, so it amounts to just another failed sequel that will be forgotten as quickly as it took writer-for-hire Kruger to cobble together his screenplay.
The picture is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and anamorphic enhanced. Overall, the DVD displays Nakata’s bleak photography exceptionally well with solid blacks and plenty of detail. The print is in perfect condition displaying little noticeable grain or other defects, the only thing marring the image is some edge-enhancement that can become off-putting at times.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is also very good, offering good directionality especially when Nakata’s film calls for people to be creeping around in the dark. The scene where the deer attack the car provides a good indication of what this soundtrack can do, as glass smashes throughout the surround speakers, and the car engine rumbles like an irregular heartbeat from the sub-woofer.
The additional feature that stands out is the Rings short film that was actually written by Ehren Kruger, and shows the writer at his best. This fifteen minute film directed by Jonathan Liebesman is in many ways a better, more inventive film than The Ring Two of which it prequels. Of course this could get confusing as more and more ‘Ring’ films crop up, but to clarify, this is a prequel to Kruger’s version of Ring 2 and acts as a lead-up to the beginning of the feature film. It tells the story of how Jake gets hold of the tape and why he wants Emily to watch it so badly. Most of this is self-explanatory from the opening of the film but two things are notable about this short. The first is that it makes the opening to The Ring Two more fulfilling and suspenseful, and secondly, it contains ideas that should have been the foundations for the feature length sequel in the first place. The whole idea of a group of teenagers ‘getting-off’ on how long they can hold out after watching the cursed tape before getting someone else to view it, thus saving them, is a fascinating idea, as well as the whole notion of internet sites pimping the ‘thrill’ of the cursed videotape. This is a neatly made film which, whilst having a music video style feel to it, throws up plenty of interesting ideas.
Unfortunately the rest of the extra features are promotional rubbish that just see those that worked on the film patting each other on the back. Imagination In Focus is about two minutes long and looks at Hideo Nakata and his direction specifically, whilst Samara: From Eye To Icon looks at the special-effects and also lasts about two minutes. The Haunting Of Ring 2 is an attempt to bring Exorcist-style real life mystery to the film in that some problems occurred during the film’s shooting so they did an exorcism to rid the set of its demons. Truth of fiction we’ll never know but at least it’s more interesting than the film itself. The thirteen minute HBO First Look documentary is by its very nature, a promotional programme. It contains interviews with the principle cast and crew and does a decent job of showing you behind-the-scenes of the film, but it doesn’t really go in-depth. Ten minutes of deleted and alternate scenes are also available on the DVD, presented in non-anamorphic 1.85:1. Trailers for Red Eye and The Ring round out the extras.
A poor sequel is presented on a DVD that contains good audio and video, and an interesting additional feature with the Rings short film that both shows off Ehren Kruger’s qualities as a writer when he gets things right, as well as showing what could have been had the studio wanted to take the sequel in a different direction.
Last updated: 19/04/2018 07:59:08