A question. If a sequel is not normally as good as the first film, and remakes are uniformally bad; how then can a remake of a sequel be anything but awful?
When The Ring first came to theatres in 2002 under the helm of Gore Verbinski it was met with enthusiasm by most, excepting the few of us that had seen the original on which it was made. Hailed as a new breed of horror, in fact it is rather a step back to when tension and build up were meant more than the blood and guts, it nevertheless opened the eyes of an otherwise blinkered audience that there was more to horror than teen slashers. However, the Ring was a far cry from its Japanese original, gone was the taught supernatural horror that those in the know had seen years before to be replaced by an over indulgent, unnecessarily padded, CGI infested egg. Yet it was original enough (to most) to succeed and the sequel was already lined up.
Once again, taking the lead from its American original, Ring Two bypasses most of the Japanese story, although elements remain, it heads off in its own direction of most of the run time. Perhaps in answering some of the critics initial fears, or perhaps in spite of them, producer Walter Parks took the bold move to hire Hideo Nakata, the director responsible for bring the world into the Ring mythology amongst other wonderful suspense filled horror greats. This was the way to ensure a remake of the sequel was successful, or so they would have you believe.
Rachel (Naomi Watts) and her son Aiden (David Dorfman), having survived the horrors of the video tape in the first movie have moved from the big city to the small suburb of Oregon to live a quiet life. Although the pair are occasionally haunted by nightmares, for the most part things are moving well, Rachel has a new job editing for the local rag, Aiden seeks solace in his photography. However, things take a rather sinister turn when Rachel reports on a teenager found dead in his apartment in front of the TV with the only witness cowering with fear in the basement. It doesn't take long to work out that a copy of the tape has made it to the Oregon. However, it appears that Samara is not content with being trapped in the tape; it is not long before she apparatus into the real world, taking control of Aiden forcing Rachel on a quest to find out the truth behind her parentage and thus a way to save Ayden before he is lost forever.
This short summary neatly encapsulates the major film elements, it's a shame then that Ring Two suffers from the unnecessary padding that so polluted the first because had it stuck to my summary above it would have been a tight scary ride. Bringing Nakata onboard was a shrewd move, the film if full of his sinister camera moves and tension building techniques, I am confident that had another director been used this film would have been a total failure. As it is Ring Two hides a gem of horror, and though many will see the visuals as superb and fresh, old hacks (like me) will recognise many of the elements from his other films, notable Dark Water. Another, more problematical element, at least to me, is the removal of the tape so early in the film. Without the 'Ring' the film quickly becomes a demonic possession clone, further distancing itself from its own roots. It seems to me, this ring idea of 'circles, spirals etc.' has gotten far too out of hand. The Japanese original had no such nonsense, the ring is purely and simply a continuation of the cycle needed to keep yourself alive after watching the tape; you know a RING.
Performances are reasonable, the film lives on the shoulders of Watts, and she never shuns the chance to shine, be it mother, fighter or detective everything is believable, you really want this gal to win. Dorfman give a far better performance here than in the Ring, though playing dead and possessed can't be much of a stretch. Supporting cast hold up well, even though there is little from any of them; special mention to Sissy Spacek as Evelyn, though she is on screen for roughly three minutes she puts in a spell binding performance, her haunting last words still ring “Be a good mother”. The music from Hans Zimmer gives the film the ominous touch it needs, being both eerie and catchy at the same time. Ring Two, then, has much going for it, but unfortunately the sum of its parts add up to a top heavy whole, overblown and stodgy, just like its predecessor, even with all the talent on board this one falls below average almost into boring territory.
This DVD is the unrated edition, apparently 'the version we couldn't see in theatres'. Having not seen the theatrical release I am at a loss as to what the differences are, except that this version runs 20 minutes longer. There does not appear to be anything substantially worse in this that would not warrant a PG-13, and I would say this is nothing but a studio money making double DVD release which seems to be the norm with studio enforced PG-13 ratings. On that rating for a minute, I quite honestly detest it; horror films should contain horror and as such have no place within the PG-13 rating. Having said that Nakata's style of directing lends itself to build up and not the gore, thus for this film I think a PG-13 rating is works, such a shame then that the film doesn't.
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