Despite having the director of the original Ring films at the helm this sequel to the 2002 remake is a lacklustre affair with only a couple of cheap shocks to recommend it.
Hollywood has an impressive track record of screwing up remakes of decent films so when The Ring came out a couple of years ago the omens were not good. The 1998 Japanese original, entitled Ringu, was highly effective and compared favourably to the flabby self regarding horror films that US studios were churning out after the success of the Scream films (does anyone remember Valentine?). Despite losing the raw power of the original, Gore Verbinki’s remake was surprisingly good and its financial success inevitably led to this sequel.
With Verbinski tied up filming the back-to-back sequels to Pirates of the Caribbean and ‘creative differences’ with their first choice of director, DreamWorks turned to the original Ringu director Hideo Nakata. However, despite his involvement the film is a big disappointment. After the events of the first film, journalist Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts) and her son Aidan (David Dorfman) have relocated from Seattle to Astoria, Oregon. After hearing of a local death that bears a suspicious resemblance to those that peppered the first film she realises that the ghost from the first film, Samara, is determined to track her down and possess her son.
The original concept of the Ring franchise was a clever one: if you watch the haunted video tape, within 7 days you receive a phone call and die. The “Ring” stood for both the literal ring of the phone and also the ring of people who copy the tape and pass it on in order to save themselves. This film unwisely dispenses early on with the videotape concept and becomes a much more traditional horror film along the lines of Halloween or Nightmare On Elm Street with Samara as the marauding villain. This is a shame because after the initial setup of the film it becomes little more than a series of loosely connected horror scenes bereft of any real significance or meaning. Whereas the first remake had the mysterious story of the tape driving it, the sequel only has the ongoing rage of Samara to anchor the narrative.
All this simply isn’t enough, despite the best efforts of those involved. Nakata has clearly tried to add some flair and style that was slightly lacking from the first film. But in creating such scenes where a pack of deer inexplicably attack Keller’s car and an extended sequence involving a possession in bath tub the film comes across as an exercise in flashy technique rather than anything truly frightening. The possession of her son is especially poor coming across as something that was cut out of The Sixth Sense. All this is a great shame because with Nakata on board the potential was there to make a decent franchise. For more effective scares and suspense you are better off revisiting the original Japanese films.
If you haven’t already seen the original films then I would advise you to check them out. The 2002 Hollywood remake has recently been released as a special edition DVD and is also worth a look. If you want to fully immerse yourself in the world of Samara and a spooky videotape then The Ring World is a fairly extensive fansite. There is also a Live Journal community devoted to the films and The Ring Cycle has some interesting visual comparisons between the Japanese and American films. Also, if Tarantino makes a Ring film then will the poster look like this?