Directed by: Hideo Nakata
Starring: Naomi Watts, Simon Baker, David Dorfman, Elizabeth Perkins, Sissy Spacek
Channeling the spirit of my late father, I'm tempted to dismiss The Ring Two with the phrase he uttered when confronted with a movie like this: "That was the nearest nothing I ever saw."
Alas, that assessment doesn't quite do justice to this steaming pile of donkey droppings that's being palmed off as a follow-up to Gore Verbinski's The Ring. Since the film is a sequel that's devoid of the director who helped make the first film work, I expected a certain degree of letdown. At the same time, the return of Naomi Watts and David Dorfman to the cast, the addition of Sissy Spacek, and the decision to replace Verbinkski with Hideo Nakata, the director of the original Japanese versions of the Ring movies, suggested that this film might at least be in the OK range. But there's nothing even remotely OK with The Ring Two.
Verbinski's film offered a growing sense of horror wrapped in a compelling mystery that boasted a dynamite twist -- all held together by a series of dynamic and often unsettling images, top-notch performances and a strong Han Zimmer score. The Ring also had the wit to defuse the potential risibility of the Bunuel-looking "haunted" videotape by having a character remark that it looks like an artsy student film.
This round, there's virtually no story, no mystery and no twist. The performances are adequate at best, and the imagery is slick without being unsettling. Most of the score is back, but it merely feels recycled. And there's certainly no wit. Screenwriter Ehren Kruger returns, but instead of crafting a sequel, he's pieced together an uninspired collection of retreads from the first movie.
The film derails almost immediately, with a scene that copies the opening of the original. Problem is, there's no shock this time, because we know exactly what's coming. This isn't helped by the fact that the newest victim of the tape is so dimwitted that he waits until all but two minutes of his allotted week are used up before he tries to pass the curse on by getting someone else to watch the damned thing!
And wouldn't you know it, all this happens in the backwater town in Oregon where Rachel Keller (Watts) and her son, Aidan (Dorfman), have moved after the events of the first movie. Being an investigative reporter for the local daily newspaper, Rachel is curious about the mysterious death, and with the ease known only in movies of this type, she waltzes on into the coroner's van and gets an eyeful of the terrified corpse. Cue the musical outburst as she realizes that the evil Samara (Daveigh Chase or Kelly Stables, depending on which scene the character is in) is still at it -- and still in pursuit of the Keller clan.
It gets worse. In the first film, Samara was the living -- or perhaps dead -- embodiment of evil. That's completely forgotten this round, as it transpires that all she really wants is to possess Aidan so she can have a real mommy -- one unlike those two original mommies that were hell-bent on drowning her. What? Two original mommies? Whatever became, you ask, of her father's outburst in the first film, when he said his wife wasn't supposed to have a child, which indicated that Samara wasn't adopted, as claimed? Well, we won't go into that. The movie certainly doesn't.
The whole videotape scare is quickly dropped in favor of a standard possession story, an unintentionally hysterical attack by rampaging deer (as close as they could get to the eerie suicidal horses from the original, I guess), and an investigation that leads to a pointlessly creepy cameo role for Sissy Spacek, who plays Samara's real mother. (And yes, it's true: Spacek here is a dead ringer for Michael Jackson.)
Narrative sense -- and most of the original story -- go out the window, which might not have mattered much if the results had still been creepy. Unfortunately, unintentional humor and rampaging boredom are poor substitutes for creepiness.
The genuinely disturbing Samara of the original -- the one who blandly admits to wanting to hurt people -- is reduced here to the more traditional long-haired ghost of Japanese folklore, a la The Grudge. In fact, Samara now behaves much like something out of that misbegotten mess of a film -- right down to making those peculiar gastric-distress noises. Apparently, there's no Alka Seltzer in the afterlife. And while that information may be useful in some esoteric way, this interminably boring movie isn't. Rated PG-13 for violence/terror, disturbing images, thematic elements and some language.
-- reviewed by Ken Hanke