Ring 2, The (United States, 2005)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

As far as I'm concerned, it's official: Hollywood has lost the art of how to make horror films. Consider this year's entries as Exhibit A - everything from White Noise to The Ring 2 has been horrible. There's not a worthwhile film in the bunch. And nowadays, it has become popular to remake incoherent Japanese ghost stories into less cogent English-language versions. The Ring and The Grudge are prime examples of this kind of bankrupt storytelling philosophy. Give me Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street, or The Shining any day.

I was not a fan of the American edition of The Ring. It did too little with an intriguing premise, offered a confusing and often dumb storyline, and was low on the creepiness scale. But compared to its successor, The Ring was pure genius. The Ring 2 is slickly made garbage - a dull, plodding horror movie that ventures into the realm of idiocy when it isn't busy remaking the first film. This is yet another example of what happens when money, not creativity, drives the production of a sequel. Despite its flaws, The Ring worked as a self-contained story. Opening it up for a second installment is a mistake. The evidence is on the screen.

If you're expecting scares from The Ring 2, you will be disappointed. Except for a few half-hearted "boo!" moments, this film has little to offer that will raise the nape hairs. The horror, to the extent that it can be called by that word, is standard, by-the-book stuff that has been neutered in order to appeal to a PG-13 crowd. It's stale. Even the one potentially edgy aspect of the movie ends up being blunted to the point where it couldn't cut butter. And, because The Ring 2 doesn't have a clear idea of where it's going, its rules and restrictions regarding the ghost and her behavior are arbitrary.

With the exception of an opening sequence that echoes that of The Ring, the most intriguing element of the first movie - that watching a video tape can result in a death sentence - is eliminated. Maybe the reason for this is that the VCR is fast becoming obsolete, joining the 8-track deck and the record player in garage sales. Can a DVD have ghostly beings encoded on it? Although The Ring 2 doesn't do much with videotapes, it offers something new: Bambi run amok. Watch and see why it's a good idea to allow hunters to thin the herd.

Naomi Watts and David Dorfman have the thankless jobs of reprising their roles as Rachel and Aidan Keller. Everyone else from The Ring gets this film off. Replacements include Elizabeth Perkins as a psychologist, Simon Baker as a reporter, and Sissy Spacek as Carrie 35 years older (or something like that). None of these secondary characters comes close to growing a personality, but that's pretty much true of the leads as well. We identify with Rachel and her son because we have known them longer.

When the film starts, Rachel and Aidan are settling down in their new home. The have moved from Seattle to the Oregon boonies in order to start anew. Unfortunately, even in out-of-the-way communities, there are VCRs, and soon the tape demon has struck again. Rachel is aghast. She locates the tape and destroys it. Around this time, however, the ghost mysteriously decides that it no longer needs electronic media - all it has to do is possess Aidan. The rest of the movie concerns Rachel's fight to save her son from the evil forces that are seeking to destroy him. This involves once again investigating the mystery of the dead girl's past. What she discovers is neither shocking nor interesting, and confirms that screenwriter Ehren Kruger should never try his hand at detective fiction.

In many ways, the film's production history is more interesting than the resulting movie. After Gore Verbinski (director of The Ring) decided he would rather go chasing pirates than try on a second Ring, the producers approached Hideo Nakata, who made both Ringu (the Japanese original) and Ringu 2 (the Japanese sequel). However, while The Ring was a remake of Ringu, The Ring 2 has nothing to do with Ringu 2. So this means Nakata got a chance to make two different first sequels. At least he can't claim that someone else messed up the American version of his franchise. He did it all by himself.

Ring 2, The (United States, 2005)

Director: Hideo Nakata
Cast: Naomi Watts, Simon Baker, David Dorfman, Elizabeth Perkins, Gary Cole, Sissy Spacek
Screenplay: Ehren Kruger
Cinematography: Gabriel Beristain
Music: Hans Zimmer
U.S. Distributor: Dreamworks
Run Time: 1:45
U.S. Release Date: 2005-03-18
MPAA Rating: "PG-13" (Violence, Profanity)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1