The Ring 2

written by Ehren Kruger

directed by Hideo Nakata

starring Naomi Watts, David Dorfman and Sissy Spacek


review by Stephen Notley

We recall The Ring, an American remake of the Japanese film Ringu. There's an evil videotape. If you watch it, you die a week later. Naomi Watts and her son watch it and spend a week trying to figure out how not to die. Turns out the tape is haunted by Samarra, the ghost of a little girl drowned by her mother in a well, and the only way to escape the curse is to make a copy of the tape and get someone else to watch it before the weeklong grace period expires and Samarra peels herself out of the nearest TV to melt your face. This Naomi Watts does, and that's how she and her son survive. That's The Ring.

Now we have The Ring 2. Naomi and son have moved to a quiet seaside town and everything appears cool until a local kid gets his hands on another copy of the tape and dies. It looks like Samarra is back, and this time she wants to possess Naomi's son, bringing on round after round of vaguely spooky stuff.

So. Is it scary? The first Ring had a few creepy things going for it. There was the videotape itself, a unsettling little black-and-white Daliesque montage of flies and severe women and a strange glowing ring, all accompanied by eerie screechy, backwards sounds and musical notes. Then there was the technological angle, the troubling idea that a malevolent spirit could work through our devices, turn them against us; it's supposed to make us uneasy around telephones and televisions. And then there was the ghost herself, Samarra, a soaking wet girl with long black hair covering her face, crawlin' out of the TV and scaring people's faces off their skulls, a disturbing image at the time even if it's already become something of a cliché.

For Ring 2 the videotape gets a cameo at most, a glimpse at the beginning and then soon after it gets tossed in a fire, making little "scree" noises as it burns, and with it goes most of the fear-of-technology idea. As a replacement Ring 2 offers water as the central motif; that is, whenever Samarra's around water pours in under the door and the carpet gets all squooshy and there's a big bathtub scene, bringing the 2005 Terror-in-the-Tub tally to two, Constantine being the other movie this year with a centrepiece bathtub scene. Apparently bathtubs are frightening these days.

Without the videotape gag, Ring 2 boils down to a pretty basic ghost possession story with little of the sense of dread and inevitability of the original. Naomi Watts is a great actress but there's not a lot for her to do besides fret about her son. The film looks good --director Hideo Nakata, who made the Japanese Ringu films, keeps everything in pale blues and grays-- but it never manages to generate anything really disturbing. Skip it.