Wednesday, February 08, 2006

DVD: The Ring Two (Unrated Edition)

Genres: Horror, J-Horror
Released: March 18, 2005
Director: Hideo Nakata
Cast: Naomi Watts, David Dorfman, Simon Baker, Sissy Spacek
Verdict: &&&

I was perfectly bewildered by the overwhelmingly negative vibes that greeted The Ring Two, sequel to one of the most successful (and deservedly so) modern horror films, The Ring, based on Japan's hugely successful Ringu. It was as if critics and moviegoers faulted the movie for failing to recreate the singular experience that was The Ring, and that's just an impossible demand for this sequel. It's an enjoyable horror film, although I will agree that it suffers for not having a hook like that transfixing videotape, whose contents were at once beautiful, repulsive and fascinating. Director Hideo Nakata (of the original Ringu, no less) attempts to compensate with ample plot, including troubled ghost Samara trying to inhabit Rachel Keller's (Naomi Watts) son, Aidan (David Dorfman, whose presence is at least as strong as that of Haley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense), and Rachel again trying to uncover the past. She seeks out the institutionalized mother of Samara, played with chilling effect by veteran actress Sissy Spacek. It's all done with the stylized visuals you expect, but a second viewing on the small screen reinforces the sense that this effort lacks the creative spark of its predecessor and fails to match the sustained edge-of-your-seat dread achieved in The Ring. The Ring Two comes closest to that mood with the deer attack scene, which genuinely shocks in the way the horse scene did in The Ring. This unrated version seems to have been undergone considerable tinkering; you'll notice new footage and even things that have been taken away. Curiously removed is a nice sequence at the flea market before the deer scene in which Aidan locks eyes with one of the creatures in the nearby woods.

Watching the short film Rings in the bonus features, one marvels that this dynamic footage didn't make it to the final cut. Basically setting up the movie's first scene, it shows the young male student (Ryan Merriman) from that scene being coaxed into watching the videotape and keeping a video diary of what happens to him. "Nobody has made it to day seven," says one of the friends. The horrors and visuals that follow drip with the kind of kinetic energy that made The Ring such a pleasantly unpleasant ride. I found myself thinking: Why didn't they make this movie instead?

Buzz after The Ring Two's premiere indicated there will be a third film, possibly delving into the still murky back story involving Samara's adoptive parents. Despite the mixed results of this one, here's hoping they go back to the well one more time.

// Linkage // For all things Ring, including the American and Japanese movies and the Japanese novels by Koji Suzuki, The Ring World is the most impressive fan site I've seen in any genre.

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