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Ring Two, The Movie Review

originally posted many years ago

I give up. I really do. I honestly can't see a reason why I should look forward to another Hollywood horror film, after this year's ungodly lineup of White Noise, Hide and Seek, Boogeyman, Cursed (a film which I admittedly admired, but only tepidly), and now The Ring Two, a sequel to 2001's hit The Ring. The Ring Two is probably the worst of them (for a lot of reasons), but that doesn't really matter. What matters is that this horror film and its kin have single-handedly made 2005 one of the most disappointing movie years in quite some time. It's amazing to think that out of five horror films not one could find a clever angle, achieve a single worthy scare, or even attempt anything original. The Ring Two is just another example of this painful recurring theme, of horror film redundancy usurping quality as the newest cinematic trend.

Consequently, anything I mutter through my teeth about The Ring Two has been said before in one of my earlier reviews. But, just to recap-here is a film that has no talent for ratcheting suspense, no rhythm to get caught up in, and absolutely no notion of the fine line between the exhilarating and the ridiculous. The worst part is that this sequel can't live up to the original Ring, which was actually pretty good. Sure, The Ring wasn't even remotely credible (even by horror film standards) and its intentional ambiguity was frustrating, but The Ring had atmosphere, and there were moments when you could feel it crawl beneath your skin. The Ring was made skillfully and with purpose, unlike The Ring Two, which is appallingly boring. It's obvious that the sequel wants to recapture the harshly lit, gothic tone of the original, but it ends up drowning in the dark waters of its own dreariness. Lots of money was put into The Ring Two (and it will make most of it back), but not an ounce of thought or ingenuity went into the formula, so nothing of value is produced.

Here's the funny part: Gore Verbinski, visually one of the most skilled directors out there (see Pirates of the Caribbean), directed The Ring, based upon a famous Japanese horror movie called Ringu. It has a sequel, Ringu 2. Both Ringu films were directed by Hideo Nakata, who now directs The Ring Two, a sequel to an American remake of his first film. Now, here's what I don't get-how could the original director of Ringu (a masterful film) destroy a remake of his own movie? How does that even happen? Maybe Nakata was a puppet, and the studio execs were the ones pulling the strings throughout production. Maybe the American filmmaking process is different from the Japanese way. I don't know, and I don't really care. I do know that Nakata messed up his own baby and has no one but himself to blame.

But I haven't given you a sense of what Ring Two is like. Allow me, then. Imagine a scene at a local fair, rich with activity, rides, candy, and laughter. Young Aidan (David Dorfman) sees a stag on the edge of the forest, just beyond the fairgrounds. The stag glares at Aidan with menace, and the boy just stands there, frozen. Suddenly, Aidan runs like something possessed into a bathroom, where he takes pictures of himself in the mirror...or maybe something else in the mirror that we cannot see.

Anyway, on the drive home Aidan and his mother Rachel (Naomi Watts) are having a serious conversation. Could the mysterious video tape, the one that, if watched, will ensure death in seven days, be back? Could the little girl who haunted the video tape be trying to reach Rachel and Aidan from her demonic world? Just when the conversation becomes a little spooky, Rachel stops the car. That stag is outside. Before you know it, there's a dozen stags ramming their antlers through the car windows, while Rachel just sits there, not driving. Eventually, they get away, and we fade out on the stags looking after the car, challenge still in their eyes.

You may be wondering why the stags attacked poor Rachel and Aidan. So am I. Strange thing is, the stag attack is never explained-it never seems to have any connection with the tape, the little girl, or anything else demented deer might be associated with. A lot of The Ring Two is like this. Things happen that make no sense in or out of the context of the story. The intent, I think, is to give the movie an air of creepy ambiguity, but it doesn't really work. Instead, scenes like the stag attack come off as funny, since they literally come out of nowhere. When Rachel returns to the tape girl's abandoned house to do some investigating, she finds piles and piles of antlers in the basement. At this point, the theater I was in roared with laughter, as we remembered the silliness of the stag scene. It never even crossed our minds that it was all supposed to be scary.

Laziness keeps The Ring Two from producing any good scary moments. There are times when it feels like the movie should be building up a scare, but instead we're given tedious exposition. We want to be scared, we want things to pop out and yell "boo!" accompanied, of course, by the sharp musical cue and just the right sound effect. But, instead, we sit, chin in hand, as we follow a story that plays by ridiculous rules and never hits an interesting, let alone human, note. Oh how we want things to lurch from these shadowy corners, but wait, first we need to find out that the tape girl is trying to possess Aidan. At one point, we expect a haunting conversation between mother and son, but instead, Aidan lays down the ground rules of his possession-because the girl has taken over Aidan's consciousness, he and Rachel can only communicate while they are sleeping. Right about then, you look at your watch, or the ceiling, or your date, and you ask, "this is a horror movie?"

But that's the trick, don't you see? The Ring Two isn't a horror movie, it's a cash cow, a ridiculous sequel that sees the mediocrity of its predecessor as a lofty goal. The Ring Two is, quite possibly, a virtually unlikable movie. I can see someone admiring The Ring Two for its atmosphere, but I can't believe someone could actually like this movie. After all, The Ring Two wasn't meant to be liked. It was meant for money, and in that way, it will succeed.

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