A sequel to the 2002 remake of Hideo Nakata’s Japanese horror masterpiece of similar name, The Ring Two is not a remake of the Japanese sequel Ringu 2, which makes the whole mess sort of confusing. Stranger still, is that The Ring Two is directed by the guy who came up with the Japanese Ring films to begin with, the aforementioned Mr. Nakata. With the series’ originator at the helm you’d think this one would be a sure bet, but amidst rumors of Hollywood studio meddling the best this sequel can manage is a bunch of ill-explained scares at the hands of a wannabe head-banger.
Naomi Watts and her creepy, big-headed kid return having escaped the previous movie by passing the curse of Samara on to someone else. The curse is carried by an evil video-tape which when watched, guarantees death for the viewer in seven days. To escape certain doom, you must copy the tape and get that copy watched by others. Having done so to save her son, Watts’ character Rachel discovers that she’s opened up an unfortunate can of worms as copies of Samara’s death bringer circulate across the country in the hands of sexy, thrill-seeking teens. Ill-content simply to kill the young and brain dead, our video loving ghost latches back on to Rachel and her son Aiden, initially in response to the destruction of one of her tapes. This quickly turns into something more sinister as the ghost in the VCR attempts to possess the body of Aiden while seeking maternal love.
Unlike the original Ring, a tightly constructed tale of suspense and horror, much of the sequel doesn’t make sense. I’m not sure for instance what to make of the deer that randomly attack Watts and her son in the middle of a country road, nor am I sure why the animals have been rendered in such horrible CGI when real deer might have sufficed. “Keep going” urges the boy, but how this connects to the evil video on which The Ring Two is based is never clear. While in the past Samara’s powers were known to cause animal suicide, we’ve never had reason before to believe that she could also use them as her own private Winkie army. Here, she does so merely as a way of shocking the audience. It’s a surprise, but only because it has little to do with the rest of the movie’s plot.
Though it may make no sense, what Ring Two does do well is generate genuine tension. Nakata doesn’t resort to beating his audience over the head with creepy music to, though weird sound is always a help. Instead, he simply keeps building nail-biting moments until everyone’s on the edge of their seat, then gives a shove off the cushion. Mood and imagery combine to create a real sense of peril and distress, one I found much more tangible and urgent than that of the first American film. It works, you will be scared.
I was somewhat disappointed to see the Ring series’ one really unique concept, that of an evil video tape, back-seated in favor of more direct contact with a pesky ghost; but the film does deliver on a purely scare the bejeezus out of you level. While its plot defies any sort of coherent explanation, fans of the movie will no doubt try, and in doing so find a bizarre sort of joy in justifying it. For the casual movie-goer, it’s a decent way to scare your date into jumping on your lap.