Directed by: Hideo Nakata
Written by: Ehren Kruger
Starring: Naomi Watts, David Dorfman, Elizabeth Perkins, Sissy Spacek, Simon Baker
Released: 2005 / Genre: Horror / Country: USA / IMDB
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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 unchartered territory, but crucially provides nothing new, making a typical western horror film designed for a pre-determined market, based on pre-determined cliches. 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. This saps the tension 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 cliches, 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 cliches 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.
Review by Daniel Stephens