The Ring 2

The Ring 2

The Ring 2

directed by Hideo Nakata

starring Naomi Watts, David Dorfman, Simon Rourke

Dreamworks Pictures

It’s difficult to decide which is a creepier concept for one’s demise: having a plastic bag shoved over your head and being thrown into a well, or having a strangely disjointed, deathly pale young girl crawl through your television and kill you. 2002’s The Ring used both disturbing scenarios to scare the bejeesus out of a lot of viewers, as Seattle reporter Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts) uncovered an urban legend which proved to be true.

The legend — that a video tape can kill a viewer seven days after watching it — and the film itself contained enough implausibility and deep holes to bewilder moviegoers, who must have expected that the sequel would shore up the story a bit.

The Ring Two manages, in its own way, to be just as terrifying and almost as interesting as its predecessor. However, the movie will frustrate some hardcore horror fans as it passes the buck to the next sequel — as far as explaining basic premises go.

The film begins in Astoria, Ore., where Rachel and son Aidan (David Dorfman) have relocated in hopes of putting their undead nemesis Samara far behind them. Unfortunately, the dead girl with a grudge is just a half-step behind them. In her first days with the Daily Astorian, Rachel discovers that the coldhearted plot device that saved their lives at the end of the last movie — making a copy and distributing it for someone else to die in their place — has spawned a deadly sort of video chain letter among area teens. Indeed, Samara, the evil child whose adoptive, horse-loving mother wisely snuffed her out over twenty years earlier, had arrived in Astoria.

She’s not after a few dumb teenagers, though; the airwaves-controlling poltergeist wants to return to the living, and has zeroed in on Aidan to provide an earthly body in which to inhabit.

Anybody who saw the first Ring would agree that young Aidan hardly needed demonic possession to be a genuinely creepy little kid. His disturbing, son-of-Satan countenance could fuel another round of Omen sequels, and he steals the show in The Ring Two.

When Samara comes calling and Aidan’s body temp drops eight degrees, Rachel and fellow news hound Max (Simon Rourke, TV’s “The Guardian”) finally get the semi-comatose boy to a hospital. The doctors come to the conclusion that mom has been abusive, and toss her out.

Hoping to find a solution in Samara’s past, Rachel returns to the Morgan farm, which is up for sale in the wake of Mr. Morgan’s electrifying departure in episode one. Eventually, she finds Samara’s birth mother (Sissy Spacek) and gets some chilling advice as how to save her family. An exorcism is in order, and Rachel races home to duke it out with Samara (imitating the latter will be a Halloween costume coup for contortionists this year).

Throughout this movie, director Hideo Nakata (who directed the original Japanese versions, Ringu and Ringu Two; those films were based on three Japanese novels) swings the audience from one end of the reaction spectrum to the other. On the verge of giggling, most viewers will not be able to suspend disbelief (or logic) for some scenes, and other scenes will levitate more than a few backsides from the seats. Nakata relies more on cliched, yet effective scare devices and less on the lingering, haunting imagery that Ring One director Gore Verbinski utilized for great effect.

Watts, while no Kidman, once again gives an intelligent performance, studiously avoiding the hand-wringing, overwrought hysteria that cinematic mothers of possessed children are known for. But other talents are wasted: Spacek, no stranger to horror films, could have a great impact on the Ring Two if she had been given more than a cameo; likewise, Elizabeth Perkins as the hospital shrink could have been really villainous if she had been given the chance.

Yet, this film has to be recommended, even if only for its chilling, highlights — an attack by dozens of murderous deer (!) and an edge-of-your-seat race between Rachel and Samara. Surely, some theater patrons will view dripping faucets, TV-screen snow and Bambi in a different light for a few days afterwards.

Unfortunately, all their questions (No. 1: “Why would a kid who died decades ago choose a video tape as a means to randomly kill people she has no connection with?”) and the much-needed plot-hole fixing — will have to wait.

The Ring 2: www.ring2-themovie.com

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