The Ring Two
The longhaired girl--who climbs out of a well, comes through your TV, gets water all over your floor and then literally scares you to death--is back with a vengeance. But don't be too alarmed. The creepy novelty of a videotape that kills you has definitely worn off.
It's been six months since journalist Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts) and her ashen-faced, sunken-eyed son Aidan (David Dorfman) outsmarted the sinister Samara and escaped that darn cursed tape. Or have they? They've moved to a new town and are trying to get on with their lives. Then Rachel discovers evidence at a local crime scene, including an unmarked videotape, which makes her fear it might not be over. Aidan suddenly starts behaving even more strangely, scratching at walls, saying things like, ''She can't hear us when we sleep,'' as his temperature drops dangerously below normal. He even has detrimental effects on the fauna in the area. Hmmm. It indeed seems like Samara isn't quite done putting the pretty blonde and her son, who looks nothing like her, through the ringer. Rachel must now try to save Aidan's life for the second time--and finally send that demented well dweller back where she belongs.
When Naomi Watts made The Ring--and agreed to do a sequel--she had no idea how the sleeper hit would turn her into a major star. But it did. Now, with an Oscar nomination under her belt for her searing turn in 21 Grams, Watts is reprising her Ring role. While she looks a little uncomfortable doing it, Watts' tortured performance undoubtedly makes the film. Her talent is palpable as Rachel, a mom who knows she isn't perfect but is trying desperately to make good for her past mistakes. As for the sullen Dorfman, if you thought he was the least bit annoying in the first Ring, with his hollowed look and doom and gloom proclamations, he is doubly so in The Ring Two. Poor kid. It's not really his fault he's being set up to be the terribly irritating ''old soul'' who knows far more than he should (and looks a heck of a lot older than he should, even though Aidan's aged only six months since the original). Then there's the doomed supporting cast. They include Simon Baker as Rachel's new journalist friend; Elizabeth Perkins as a concerned psychiatrist who believes Rachel may be abusing Aidan; and Sissy Spacek, making a return to horror as a mysterious woman who holds a key to Samara's past. Cue the ominous music.
Right from the start, The Ring Two is at a disadvantage. We already know the hook. We already know what the menacing videotape can do and the urgency in finding out its origin, all of which made the first Ring so oppressive and terrifying. So where do you go from there? Hiring director Hideo Nakata, who helmed the successful Japanese versions of The Ring films, is a promising start. The Ring's director Gore Verbinski was too busy filming other movies, including The Weather Man and prepping the sequels to Pirates of the Caribbean, but that's OK. Nakata certainly knows the material and has a handle on using effects to build tension, including a rather disturbing scene in which Rachel and Aidan are attacked by antlered bucks (similar in feel to the horse scene in the original). But ultimately, The Ring Two can't keep up the momentum. Having Rachel once again race around, this time to stop Samara from possessing her son, just doesn't instill the same fear. And, just once, it would have been cool to see how Samara actually dispatches her victims by turning them into life-sized versions of the famous Munch painting, ''The Scream.'' Oh well.
Everyone really wants The Ring Two to be as frightening as the original. But unfortunately, Samara's deadly videotape does not hold up to repeat viewings.