In the end we get a movie that has the feel and look of the original, but gives us none of the mystery, intrigue, or fearfulness that made it good. As a stand alone (given sufficient background) it would be a perfectly good horror movie, but as a sequel it flops kind of hard. We are left with the framework built by the original movie, and it’s repercussions, but have no substance to sustain it. I was never bored since I had a vested interest in the characters (well played writers), but I was never really fearful for them or even concerned that there was any real peril. The Ring Two walks a line between whatever The Ring was and a supernatural horror/suspense movie, and that leaves it feeling a bit underwhelming, never really living up to either…If you liked The Ring and really need to fill in the gaps it left then I would recommend The Ring Two, but if you like the open endedness of The Ring then don’t watch this one or you’ll lose that feeling. – 3.7/5 (genre)
The Ring Two is a bit of mixed bag. There is on the one hand the part of me that very much wanted it to live up to it’s predecessor and really like it, and on the other hand part of me that just feels like they tried too hard. It stayed as best it could in the tradition of the original, with a relatively steady pacing and strong reliance of long term suspense. But where it loses out to The Ring is in the very elements that made the original much more intense, the mystery and impending sense of dread is completely lost now that we know what Samara is and what she wants. The last half hour of the movie gives up more information and adds some intensity but it’s still not quite enough to get back that same feeling from the 2002 edition.
So to give the story background: Easy enough, watch the The Ring! I kid, but not really. Rachael (Naomi Watts) and Aidan (David Dorfman) having made copies of the tape and spread them on for others to watch have left Seattle and moved to Astoria, Oregon (I didn’t know it was in Oregon until watching the credits, but that’s okay I didn’t really catch the first one was Seattle for a while, although the rain should have been a clue looking back). They believe that it’s all over now, that Samara (Kelly Stables) will no longer bother them now that they’ve given her free reign to run amok with the rest
of the world. This is, of course, not to be. We open with a highschool boy who has watched the tape trying to get a girl (Emily) he goes to school with to watch the video, and she does play it but doesn’t watch it. The boy dies and Emily is traumatized from seeing how he died (this sounds really familiar), and becomes essentially unresponsive like Becca, but not before Rachael hears about it through her new job as editor (?) of the local newspaper. She investigates the boys body at the scene, where Samara pops from the body bag and tells her she’s found her. Emily tells Rachael she didn’t watch the tape, and where it is and Rachael destroys the tape thinking that would end it. Considering the extreme degree of complication involved in fixing (if you want to call it that) in the original movie, how she could think this would fix it is beyond me. Samara has found them both and she wants Aidan.
The premise is pretty solid as a follow up to The Ring, dealing with the repercussions of their actions and garnering the solid attention of Samara. I mean, Rachael did free her from the well and let her loose on the world to kill indiscriminately, that seems like something you’d want to track a person down to thank them for. That is essentially what Samara is doing at a very base level, she feels like Rachael is her mother because she “loved” her enough to come looking for her and set her free. And how does a murderous dead girl show her adoration for her mother, take said mother’s son’s body and live as him of course. While said like that it sounds kind of funny, in horror movie logic it is perfectly sound and a good solid premise to base a movie around.
The Ring Two takes a bit more direct approach in dealing with scares. There are fewer jump scares, not that the original had many to begin with, and more look at the power of Samara moments such in the bathroom at Max’s house. Oh, did I not mention Max (Simon Baker), that may be because he is even more inconsequential than Noah was in the original movie. So much so that I’ve spent more time on him here already than the movie does. The more direct horror approach actually has significantly less punch than the drawn out suspense, I mean we can see the great and mighty powers of the undead (or dead here I suppose) in about 13 bajillion movies. The attraction of The Ring was the sense of dread of what she might be able to do, and the mystery that surrounded the why of it, something that The Ring Two seemed to forget. Instead we get mind control (kill that psychiatrist), ESP (she can hear everything), and a little water tossing. What moments were done with the intent of the viewers imagination being used were relatively sparse and not very impacting.
The Ring Two is really all about the why of Samara, where did she come from, what does she really want and how is it that she has these powers? Rachael manages to track down Samara’s actual birth mother, but the first movie strongly intimated that Samara was not adopted but the the child of the Morgan’s conceived in some ill-conceived (don’t hate me) way. It would seem the first movie got it wrong. Turns out Samara was born to a woman named Evelyn (Sissy Spacek), who was convinced that she was taken over by the dead and needed to die. Evelyn’s advice to Rachael (who she knew was coming by the way which suggests she too possesses some powers) was to listen to her baby and kill him. Good times I tell ya.
There are good strong moments to the movie. Such as when the deer (elk?), look like deer to me but I’m from the Midwest so what do I know, surround their car and smash it to bits trying to kill Aidan. Why these animals hate her so much is completely unclear until Rachael returns to the Morgan’s home, which is now for sale, and finds hundreds of antlers in the basement. Seems Mr. Morgan enjoyed killing deer, why that makes them hate Samara is, well…I don’t know why. Good scene though. The initial interaction of Aidan and Samara is rather intense as well, and involves the very potent effect of Samara coming out of the TV again, my favorite part of the original movie, and so was a lot of fun to see again until it got overused and a bit played out. And the final few moments as Rachael is climbing out of the well with Samara chasing here, giving us the incredibly creepy bone cracking crawling we’ve come to love from these types of movies, and generating the first truly intense scene. Expect, that’s about 100 minutes in, soooo a little late I think. Better late than never I suppose.
The acting is solid as one would expect from the original cast of the first movie (Rachael and Aidan), and very convincing. My biggest complaint, and I suppose this goes for the first movie as well, is that Naomi Watts just doesn’t do I’m scared to screaming well. She plays a too strong of a character for Rachael to be believable when she does the typically horror movie scream. Somebody else surely could have seen that too and decided to toss it, we don’t need it. She was terrified that she was going to lose her son and have to live with Samara forever, and she played that extremely well with great subtlety, why do we need to break that up with a horrified scream when she finds someone killed by Aidan/Samara, and then revert back to being the subtle upset she was before? Horror tropes are a must I suppose. Aidan is acted well too of course, and the mix between Aidan, and Aidan/Samara was done really well, especially for a child actor (at the time) and it felt creepy but not scary. I think that was more of a writing issue though.
The dream sequence. I have to give this it’s own paragraph simply because it seems to be the logical basis of the movie, and the one major constructed rule that gets broken. The dead don’t sleep, therefore they never dream. I can live with that, that explains in the original why Samara would just stand and stare for hours on end without ever sleeping. This also means that, according to the movie, the dead can’t hear you when you’re asleep, or interact with you. Where to start on this? This device gets used several times, first by unconscious Aidan to tell Rachael how to find the answers she needs to “defeat” Samara, then for Aidan and Rachael to speak to each other after Samara has taken his body. How are they talking to each other exactly though? Rachael is asleep, and Aidan is kept asleep by Samara, but does that mean we all share a common dream world where we can interact with one another at will given the proper information to do so? Or is it a mother-son thing that allows them to talk to one another? Hard to say, at any rate while it doesn’t break the rule it does bend it when Aidan suddenly says “she’s heard us” and disappears. Wait, how did she hear you? You were asleep and she can’t sleep, so she shouldn’t have been aware of anything you were doing. But the big rule break comes from the fact that Samara finds Aidan initially in a dream! That’s right, she finds and begins to take over him while he’s sleeping, interacting with him in the dream. How can she do that if she never dreams? Logic is so often lost in plot devices.
In the end we get a movie that has the feel and look of the original, but gives us none of the mystery, intrigue, or fearfulness that made it good. As a stand alone (given sufficient background) it would be a perfectly good horror movie, but as a sequel it flops kind of hard. We are left with the framework built by the original movie, and it’s repercussions, but have no substance to sustain it. I was never bored since I had a vested interest in the characters (well played writers), but I was never really fearful for them or even concerned that there was any real peril. The Ring Two walks a line between whatever The Ring was and a supernatural horror/suspense movie, and that leaves it feeling a bit underwhelming, never really living up to either. The well scene is by far the best part of the movie, but even it is marred by the attempt to make Samara seem pitiable followed immediately by making her evil, perhaps a duality that could be done but difficult to pull off. If you liked The Ring and really need to fill in the gaps it left then I would recommend The Ring Two, but if you like the open endedness of The Ring then don’t watch this one or you’ll lose that feeling. Wonder what that means for Rings. Guess we’ll see soon enough.
Overall: 3.7/5 (genre)