The Ring Two

Director    Hideo Nakata
Starring    Naomi Watts, David Dorfman, Sissy Spacek
3 stars

1st April 2005

I have a bit of an issue with the original Ring. Well, not so much an issue with the film itself - sure, it sucked harder than a two-dollar whore and was about as scary as an afternoon with Tim Henman - rather the people who profess a liking to it because they think that associating themselves with Japanese culture makes them alternative and mysterious. These same people are the ones who snorted with derision when the Gore Verbinski remake hit cinemas, despite the fact that the US version was a damn sight better and went some way to explaining elements that the original conveniently forgot about. It's because of that remake that I'm even bothering with The Ring Two, so I went into the cinema with my Ring rage suppressed and my seething hatred bubbling under.

Turns out I needn't have worried too much. For starters, it's a completely new storyline and isn't bound to the Japanese series at all - the remake borrowed story elements from the sequel to the original (stay with me), but there's no thievery here, it's all fresh and from the pen of an American. Hideo Nakata's schedule cleared up at the right time and the series' creator was bussed in when arranged director Noam Murro dropped out, so he's finally got the chance to make his film with a Hollywood budget and big name cast. Naomi Watts returns as harrowed single mother Rachel, who's desperate to leave the cursed video and her life behind her so moves to a remote seaport with her son Aidan (David Dorfman). Unfortunately, little Samara - the girl so desperately in need of a haircut and a fingernail trim - isn't so keen to forget about the past, and when another copy of the accursed tape turns up in Rachel's new home town, the little tyke takes her opportunity to find a new family, and more importantly, a new mother. The plot is baffling at times ("I know it sounds crazy, but she actually wants to be him!") but it's steered in the right direction by some clinical directing from Nakata.

Since the remake made the Aussie a star in 2002, Naomi Watts has picked a fine set of roles and really made a name for herself in Hollywood, so it's somewhat surprising to see her back in what is essentially a run of the mill sequel. Always entertaining to watch (and seemingly always pissed off at someone or something), nonetheless she does rather have the look of weariness about her - it's almost like she's got the words 'Contractually Obliged To Be Here' tattooed on her forehead. Little Dorfman is creepy as all hell, even when he's supposed to be being normal - his shark-like stare and wrong-shaped mouth coupled with his staccato speech make him look and sound like Haley Joel Osment on crack. He's one fugly kid and is often just as scary as the soggy Samara, who, sadly, is mostly rendered in CGI this time around. There's blink and you'll miss 'em cameos from Sissy Spacek and Elizabeth Perkins, and any movie with Bill Lumbergh in it gets my vote from the get go. Yyeeaaah.

Is it scary? It's sure scarier than the original, but that's not saying much. Yeah, there's a few jumpy moments scattered around, and it's certainly a trick to make something as mundane as water make you nervous, but as for genuine, cloth-touching terror? Not here. We already know what happens to people when they watch the tape and we've already seen Samara's neato trick with a TV, so where do we go from here? Liberties have been taken with the story to shoehorn in a few shocks - now, the iconic Samara isn't just limited to the telly, she can appear in people's bedrooms, bathtubs, bodybags - whatever the story dictates, to be honest. To his credit, Nakata doesn't put a foot wrong, it just feels like there's nothing really frightening left to uncover with the series. It's immaculately directed, edited and scored, and refreshingly free of horror clich's (okay, minus the bathtub bits) but still feels like a retread rather than a genuine extension of the story. Elements from the first film are included but their presence never explained, like the tree of fire and the bluebottle - it's nice to see some recognisable elements, but they mean nothing at all. There aren't any horses jumping off boats this time either, which is always a downer.

The Ring Two is probably pushing the series a little further than it should be pushed (a threequel would be extremely ill-advised), but nonetheless it remains a fun way to while away a couple of hours if this sort of thing floats your boat. It certainly won't change my opinion of the original and it doesn't entirely convince me that the series was ever worth bothering with, but for a big, stupid, Americanised horror flick, you could do a lot worse. Who'd have thought a sequel to a remake of a film I despise would elicit that kind of response, eh? Well well.

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