March 22, 2004

I Fell In to a Burning Ring of Mire

by JEREMIAH LEWIS, American Digest Film Editor

THE RING TWO IS, if nothing else, a referendum on water. If boredom could be measured, there'd be about one thousand gallons of it just pouring from each tepid frame of this lackluster, wholly uninspired sequel to The Ring, itself a mercenary remake of the Japanese horror thriller Ringu.

Where the original remake at least contained mock-worthy passages of celluloid cheese, The Ring Two commits crimes no self-styled suspense-horror movie sequel should commit. For one, it takes itself seriously, but it fails to deliver on chills, instead opting for the typical American scare technique of sudden, loud Herrman-esque orchestral bars, which prompt the usual suspects (teenage girls, mostly) to scream. It's the illusion of fright, one that is tiresome to endure.

Screenwriter Ehren Kruger has written a story that is the product of a fertile imagination, whilst director Hideo Nakata, who directed the original Ringu and its sequel Ringu 2 (not the same story as this film), embues the film with a sense of deep foreboding and wrongness. With the talent behind the pen and the camera, it's sad that such a morose and uninspired mess is the result.

The film picks up with Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts) and her son Aidan (David Dorfman) as they move in to a small town on the coast. She's a newspaper editor investigating the death of a high school boy found with his face is twisted into a grotesque expression of fear. Keller realizes that a tape still exists, so she has it destroyed.

Thus, for no reason except convenience, the seven day video tape ghost theory from the first film is replaced by the ghost who doesn't need a video tape at all to scare people to death. This does nothing except prove the first film was less about an actual curse and more about a thin plot device.

The ghost of Samara, the dead girl whose mother killed her by throwing her down the well, comes back and possesses Aidan, lowering his core temperature, putting handprints on his back, and generally making him a walking water hazard. He is hospitalized and Rachel is implicitly accused of child abuse because of his condition. She investigates Samara's history and finds that she was adopted, and that her real mother tried to drown her when she was an infant, which is why she was adopted by the people who later threw her down the well. It seems that Samara just wants a mother to love her, and has chosen Rachel. Rachel doesn't want anything to do with Samara, not the least of her reasons being that she, you know, now possesses her son.

The final act of the film is Rachel's attempt to free Aidan from Samara's possession and shut the ghost down for good. In an OJ Simpson's style twist, it turns out that the only way to kill Samara is to kill the one she loves, her only son Aidan, by drowning him. If there's a vaguely Judeo-Christian theology floating around in this mess, it's not explored, though with the number of times Aidan gets dunked and pulled from the depths of the bathtub, it's a wonder this film wasn't sponsored by the Baptists.

There's a weird subplot involving psychotic deer which seems to have nothing to do with the ghost story, but implies that Samara's adopted parents were zealous during deer hunting season; and of course there's the requisite handsome but clueless man who becomes the victim of Samara's belaboured curse. It's all very elaborate and tries to be deep and sympathetic and conscious of the mother-child bond, but the whole thing comes across like a slice of dry salami on stale bread. Nothing exciting, and worse, nothing interesting happens throughout the entire 111 minutes.

Midway through I found myself yawning and unable to even joke about the haunted looks of Namoi Watts, who looks about as interested in her role as a poleaxed cat, or the unintentionally comical expressions on David Dorfman's face as he attempts to look scared and possessed at the same time. Simon Baker is the resident "nice guy"; his role is just fodder for ghost's gristing, and he's not given much to work with. Sissy Spacek does a nice turn as Evelyn, the darkling child's original mother and haunted mental institution's inmate. She is the film's only redeeming characteristic, and she's a cameo.

There is one scene that was worth a good laugh. Aidan tells Rachel in a dream that Samara can't hear them talking when they're both asleep. He won't sleep when he's possessed, so Rachel makes him a Peanut Butter and Valium sandwich, loaded with enough tranquilizer to put down a horse. It's played as seriously as the rest of the film, and I'm not sure the filmmakers got the joke. At least the audience I was with did. And it gave me an idea.

If you must watch this film, I recommend preparing a hearty PB&J sandwich. Mix some sleep medicine in your jelly and chow down. I guarantee it--five minutes later, you'll be out, but you won't miss a thing.

Jeremiah Lewis of Fringe reviews films both at his site and American Digest. Lewis can be reached directly at

Posted by Vanderleun at March 22, 2004 7:31 AM
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