Rated: PG-13 Reviewed by: Jim Release date: March 18, 2005 Released by: DreamWorks Animation
Naomi Watts’ Rachel Keller continues to battle a curse in The Ring Two, which isn’t as spooky and tense as its predecessor, which had as its tag-line, “Before you die you see The Ring.”
This sequel boasts some well-staged visual effects under the direction of Hideo Nakata, who did the original Japanese version, Ringu and its sequel. The power from a deadly, copied videotape ultimately is supernaturally jettisoned by Nakata and returning screenwriter Ehren Kruger.
Images of water constantly in motion like Gabriel Beristain’s lensing opens the movie and thematically figures into the film’s main thesis involving a hurtful ghost Samara Morgan (Kelly Stables). Archival footage from the cursed tape is passed on to a subsequent viewer like a virus. But, when Jake (Ryan Merriman) seemingly passes it on to an unsuspecting girlfriend as his seven days are almost over, the unmarked tape’s background takes over and Jake is dead as water floods the house.
This eerie event occurs in Astoria, Oregon where Watts’ Rachel and son Aidan (David Dorfman) have relocated from the unsettling, rainy climate of Seattle. She has a better position, as a copy editor with less field work, at the Daily Astoria. But, the crime scene involving Jake with detailed distorted makeup complements of wizard Rick Baker, has Rachel breaking into the house and burning the tape.
Nakata and Kruger emphasize the malevolent, translucent skinned Samara from the look, enhanced by Baker as a specter form the death in a dark, dank well by her mother who committed suicide. Her movements later suggest how the movie tries to approach horror like those in William Friedkin’s The Exorcist. The institutionalized Evelyn, a powdery, long, stringy coiffed Sissy Spacek, tells the dogged Rachel, “you let the dead get in.” The ghostly woman turns out to be Samara’s birth mother, but by the time she appears there’s little adrenaline pumping as “fear comes full circle.”
The idea of Rachel and Aidan trying to shelter one another as Samara enacts her revenge allows Watts and a less catatonic Dorfman to play convincingly off of one another. A day at the carnival has Aidan (now adept with a state-of-the-art camera) to get some shots that include images of Samara. It will lead to an intense, unexpected scene with a herd of bucking deer wreaking havoc on a Jetta, and later in a key bathroom sequence where water coats the walls and ceiling comes crashing down like a giant wave.
The plot eventually doesn’t hold water like the climactic well chase and image from a cliff reminiscent of the videotape. Rachel is driven to get Aidan out of his hypothermic, dangerous state by going back to Seattle and communicating with him in her dreams, safe from the omniscient Samara, who has a strong Mommy complex.
Besides Spacek’s return to the horror genre, there’s hardly any support as the visuals and moody thematic score by Hans Zimmer try to glide over it all with portentous strokes. Simon Baker, as Mark, Rachel’s newspaper employee, is rather flat even in his later scenes with Dorfman. And, Elizabeth Perkins almost seems like another doctor from The Jacket, as her somewhat abrasive psychiatrist won’t let Aidan go home to see his mother.
The Ring Two maintains a monochromatic, overcast pallet inside and out and artistically includes some images (like a maple tree) to some disturbing effect. But, besides the emotional investment between Watts and young Dorfman, as Aidan mostly addresses her by her first name, this sequel isn’t impervious to what may drown a successful Americanized supernatural franchise.
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