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The Ring Two (2005)
Director: Hideo Nakata

review by Jonathan McCalmont
Spoiler Alert!
The Ring Two is a sequel to The Ring, an American remake of a Japanese film also called Ring (though it's frequently referred to as Ringu, because it rhymes with Pingu). The Japanese Ring spawned sequel Ring 2 and a prequel called Ring 0 but the American Ring Two is not a remake of the Japanese Ring 2 and has very little indeed to do with Pingu - which isn't Japanese and is about penguins.

You might think that my mentioning Pingu is confusing and a feeble attempt at a joke based on the phonetic similarities between Ringu and Pingu. If you thought that then you'd be absolutely right, but the fact is that for all the sense that this film makes they could easily have included a subplot about a mischievous Claymation penguin and it wouldn't have looked too out of place.

The Ring was served by a very simple and straightforward plot device in the shape of a cursed VHS tape. If you watched the tape you either had to show it to someone else or you died a week after seeing it. The Ring Two has no such plot device as the videotape is cast to the flames within the first 20 minutes. Instead we have the fact that Samara, the ghost in the tape, wants to possess rather than kill the child from the first film. The result is a film that lurches from set piece to set piece for no apparent reason. Once you realise this though the film isn't without nice moments.

With the exception of a nice scene in which the characters' car is attacked by stags we see many themes that are also present in Nakata's other films. Most prevalent is the idea of water representing the supernatural or the underworld, at one point this belief is actually explained to one of the characters but it's an idea that pops up in the original Ringu, Ringu 2 (which have scenes involving wells and swimming pools) as well as in another Japanese horror film, Dark Water.

The end of The Ring Two is also reminiscent of Dark Water in that both films see the mother sacrificing herself to the supernatural in order to save the child. In both cases this is done because the ghost needs a mother but whereas Dark Water's sacrifice is permanent and steeped in Japanese concepts of sacrifice and duty the Ring Two's attitudes to parenting seem schizophrenic. First, the mother follows the example set by Victoria Climbie's family in believing that the only way to save her child from evil spirits is to drug him and drown him. Second, we see a mother sacrificing herself for her child only to return because she followed her child's voice back to his side. So apart from having two different endings the film's vision of parenting is frighteningly twisted veering from righteous child abuse to saccharine and absurd sentimentality. In fact, the relationship between Watt's Rachel and her son Aiden is never believable, not least because of Dorfman's increasingly clichéd Sixth Sense-style middle-aged child schtick.

It's also worth noting that at no point is this film even remotely scary. I say this not as a jaded horror fan but someone who is very easily freaked out by horror films at the cinema (it's not uncommon for me to watch a film with my hands in front of my face). The Ring Two relies far too heavily on spooky music, major chords, darkness and making the audience jump. After a quarter of an hour it stops being effective and rapidly passes through predictable and into the realms of being insulting. While there is some good material in this film it's far too thin to carry the whole film and the lack of decent writing means that despite Nakata's talent the film fails to engage at all. Indeed, this is the fourth film to be extracted from the ideas behind Ringu and it's starting to wear a little bit thin, this is pretty obvious from the fact that the videotape is done away with so early and Samara becomes this evil presence that can project her power at will and in a variety of different ways.

The beauty of the original Ringu was its simplicity, the VHS was understood and the central conflict was resolved by putting Samara/Sadako to rest by finding the well she drowned in. Samara now has become this amorphous entity whose motivations and powers aren't clear to the point where she starts to resemble a non-sensical version of death as it appears in the Final Destination films. If you look at most successful horror films the fear and dread comes from the knowledge that the monster's coming and that's a knowledge grounded in a basic understanding of the monster but fear because the monster won't stop until it gets what it wants and will tirelessly use horrific means to get that thing; Dracula doesn't stop till he gets his blood, the Alien hunts and breeds, and even the Creeper from Jeepers Creepers collects body parts (there's a reason why the golden age of US horror coincides with the height of the Cold War). The makers of the Ring Two fail to understand this.

Samara is no longer comprehensible, she's omniscient but she fails to notice the fact that the child never calls his mother by anything other than her first name. She wants to possess the child and yet sends stags to kill him. She hates and fears water and yet drags the mother back to a well. The end result is an experience not that far removed from watching a film by David Lynch; you know that some weird stuff is going to happen but you won't understand why any of those things happen. While Lynch's imagery may occasionally be shocking it's never truly frightening.

Ultimately, this is a film that's let down by bad material. The script is poor and the characters and situations that stem from that script fail to satisfy. The talent of the director is sufficient to raise the film above complete rubbish and into the realms of the watchable but the material is just too thin to be engaging.
The Ring Two

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