When we last left Rachel (Naomi Watts) and her son Aidan (David Dorfman), they couldn't stop evil child Samara's reign of VHS tape terror, but they figured out a way to get themselves out of the line of fire. Now, months later, they've settled into a new life. But when the tape gets reintroduced into their lives, Samara comes calling and this time she wants Aidan's body for her own. Rachel is once more forced to investigate Samara's history to find the answers she needs to stop the evil for good.
When 2002's "The Ring" ended, the mood was bleak, promising a wave of hysteria to follow with even more outbreaks of Samara across the world. "The Ring Two" (IMDb listing) doesn't live up to that promise. Original Japanese "Ringu" director Hideo Nakata tries to provide new creative blood, but all he does is simply remake the first film.
Admittedly, I wasn't a fan of the original U.S. version of the horror saga. Directed by Gore Verbinski, "Ring" was an unconvincing visual exercise, packed to the gills with creatively bankrupt cheap scares that tried to cover its PG-13 limitations. Nakata doesn't have the same lofty visual and aural aspirations as Verbinski, and his "Ring Two" is a noticeably quieter affair. The picture relies on mood and recurring visual cues (water is the theme here) to creep out the audience, yet the whole production is lacking a practical reason to return to this story. The screenplay, by original writer Ehren Kruger, is a rehash of the first film: Samara is crawling out of more TV sets, Rachel is the victim of a random animal attack (this time with deer), and she finds herself in Samara's well yet again for the climax. What's new about "Ring Two" is the ditching of the VHS tape "seven days" countdown concept. The new film is a possession story, and an unconvincing one at that. The scope of the "terror" has been minimized for no good reason, other than to keep Nakata's head above water helming his first American feature. This change of focus only makes the vapid horror ambiance of this franchise all the more forgettable.
The change in director also baffles star Naomi Watts. A fantastic actress who gave the original film her all, Watts looks confused by the events in the film, and I don't necessarily believe that's her performance. Seemingly left to fend for herself while Nakata dreams up new ways for water to be piped into a set, Watts gives the film a college try, but it's easy to see that her heart just isn't in this sequel. Her line readings are left out to dry, and she has the unfortunate situation of having to play against young David Dorfman as her son for most of the film. The poker-faced Dorfman, who has the same facial reaction wondering what's for dinner as he does when faced with Samara's evil wrath, has been bumped up to the main focus of "Ring Two," and his acting doesn't enliven the already DOA script in the least.
"Ring Two" tries to pursue the history behind Samara with a new character played by Sissy Spacek, which appears to be the only effort put into opening up this new film and furthering the plot. A nice try, but it comes way too late in the game to resonate. For the die-hard fans, this second serving of American "Ring" should be just as tasty as the first. However, for those who weren't convinced the first time around, this is another dull exercise in colorless terror.
Filmfodder Grade: D