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The Ring Two (March 17/05)

As it turns out, Gore Verbinski (director of the first Ring) was as much a part of that film's success as star Naomi Watts and the dead girl in the well. With The Ring Two, the reins have been turned over to Hideo Nakata - the filmmaker who started all this with Ringu several years ago - and it's clear almost immediately that Nakata is either unwilling or unable to imbue the film with the same sort of ominous visuals that were an integral part of the original. As a result, The Ring Two comes off as bland by comparison; it certainly doesn't help that the creepy-girl-with-long-hair image has been thoroughly diluted over the past three years (most horror flicks these days seem to contain a character of that ilk).

The story kicks off shortly after the events of the first film, with Rachel (Naomi Watts) and Aidan (David Dorfman) now living in a small town - the rationale being that Samara won't be able to find them if they keep a low profile. When a teenager is found dead in his home under familiar circumstances, Rachel becomes convinced that Samara is back to her old tricks - a suspicion that's confirmed when Aidan begins displaying some increasingly bizarre behavioral traits.

It's hard to shake the feeling that The Ring Two has been crafted for the sole purpose of cashing in on the success of its predecessor, a realization that's compounded by the fact that the movie is more of a remake than a sequel. The structure is remarkably similar, with Rachel racing against the clock to save her son by solving part of Samara's mystery (in the original, she was trying to prevent her own death). The film even includes a number of familiar elements within the story, including a disturbing encounter with a herd of deer (rather than a sole horse) and Rachel's trip to Samara's childhood home. As a result, there's no sense of continuation at play here; it really does feel as though the characters are just going through a series of motions orchestrated by screenwriter Ehren Kruger (why, for instance, would Rachel even consider owning another television set?)

Of course, it may have been easier to overlook such things had Nakata infused The Ring Two with even a fraction of the sort of style that was so prevalent in the original. Instead, the filmmaker infuses the movie with flat visuals that aren't intriguing in the least (an episode of CSI has more style than this). In terms of the acting, Watts and Dorfman seem trapped by Kruger's inert screenplay - forced to deliver performances that are essentially carbon-copies of their work in the original.

And that's really the bottom line; The Ring Two essentially feels like a superfluous facsimile; with no innovative plot developments or even scares (all the supposed "frightening" moments in the film are riffs on things from the original), there's virtually no reason for the movie to even exist.

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