The Ring Two (Unrated Edition)
What happens when you take a dose of Japanese horror and try to incorporate it into a very American movie?
Welcome to The Ring Two.
Just when you thought it was safe to go back to your DVD player, Samara returns for her second outing, this time directed by horror maestro Hideo Nakata, the director of the original Japanese incarnations of Ring and Ring 2.
Set six months after the events of the original film, Rachel and her creepy, semi-psychic son, Aidan, have moved to Astoria, Oregon in an attempt to leave behind them the memories of the cursed tape. Rachel now works for the local paper, while Aidan has developed a passion for digital photography, and all seems rosy in their little world.
A local teenager dies mysteriously. When Rachel hears that the boy was found by the TV, and a girl friend was found cowering in the basement, she hot-foots it over to the crime scene, only for Samara to finally track her down, thus plunging our strong-willed heroine back into the nightmare of the cursed tape.
Surprisingly though, the tape itself doesn't play a very large role in the movie. A new version was made and posted online at http://www.the-tape.com (now offline), but no one actually sits down in the movie and watches it. The original tape returns for a few moments, but the fact that the film doesn't include the central crux of the original almost seems disappointing; it's like watching Cardcaptor Sakura without a mention of the Clow Cards.
The movie itself is well-shot and much brighter than the muted colors used in the original that unfortunately makes the tone of the sequel less bleak. Samara also gets a lot more screen time, but this is not necessarily a good thing.
The plot of the film is well-crafted, but it is writer Ehren Kruger's attempt to explain Samara's back story by taking the very Japanese aspects of Sadako Yamamura's own mythos, and splicing the two together which dulls the impact of The Ring 2. While the Samara of the first movie allowed the audience to empathize, the creepy demon child of the sequel is vengeful, unforgiving, and her need for a mother is twisted into something unholy.
David Dorfman gives a great performance in the style of Haley Joel Osmond, but the crux of the plot involving Samara's attempt to possess him is predicable, although the scenes where he is playing Samara playing him are eerily creepy.
While most of the special effects are good, it is painfully obviously where CGI has been used, no more so than in the closing scenes of the movie when Rachel gets sucked into the TV.
While the movie is scary, it doesn't match up to the original, and we also have the token animal-sensing-Samara-leading-to-an-ugly-death scene, which to me is more upsetting. Whereas the original movie had a horse being sucked underneath a ferry, the sequel has a herd of very pissed-off deer attempting to ram Rachel's car.
The DVD release itself is somewhat bare bones. It includes deleted scenes and several short documentaries, including an informative HBO making-of, a documentary explaining how the cast resorted to a Shinto purification ceremony to ensure that the shoot went as planned, and 'Samara: From Eye to Icon'. This incredibly short documentary covers the creation of Samara. It could have been an in-depth look at her character and its origins, but instead, we have to settle for Rick Baker explaining how they used make-up to create Samara.
However, the clear favorite for me is the fifteen minute short Rings. This mini-movie was originally featured on the two-disc Collector’s Edition of The Ring, and it is repeated here, as it sets up the movie perfectly. It’s the story of a group of teenagers in a 'ring,’ who watch the cursed tape and then record what they see on the Internet.
Rings focuses on Jake, the poor soul who meets his doom at the beginning of The Ring 2, and in my opinion, it is a much better sequel to the original film than Hideo Nakata's offering. In the space of fifteen minutes, we have all of the thrills and chills of the original, complete with an engaging side-plot and characters who seem more three-dimensional than the sequel’s characters.
Overall, The Ring 2 will appeal to fans of the genre, but it is not a patch on the original Japanese version or the American remake. The storyline unsuccessfully tries to take the creepiest aspects of the Japanese version and meld them with an American plot. The presence of Hideo Nakata as the director is welcome, but the popularity of remaking Japanese movies for the American market had led to a dilution of the things that make the series genuinely terrifying.