Read Mr. Disgusting’s review here
By this point, we all know that “before you die, you see the ring.” Well, before you see “The Ring Two”, you’d best pay a visit to the restrooms, or two hours of dripping faucets and roaring coasts will have your back teeth floating.
Before I start throwing around words like “waterlogged”, “sunk”, and “all wet” to describe what is a disappointing sequel to a disappointing remake, let me say this: this is the wettest film ever set on dry land. Awash in more water-related imagery than a feature-length Brita commercial (and boasting not one, but two climactic scenes in bathtubs), “The Ring Two” is certainly interesting to look at thanks to its fascination with moving liquids and strict blue-green palette; but as usual, intriguing visuals are unable to distract from a script that falls somewhere between incomprehensible and ludicrous. Unaided by a curiously detached performance by the usually excellent Naomi Watts, the film never settles into any kind of rhythm, leaving us with an assortment of scenes from the first film reshot with the sprinklers turned on, tied together by a thin plot.
The first and biggest mistake of “The Ring Two” is that it completely abandons the mythology of the original film in favor of a tired creepy-kid possession story. Fans of Samara and the videotape virus concept (anyone who watches the tape will die in seven days unless they copy and show the tape to someone else) should watch the Japanese sequel instead – here the concept is entirely abandoned. Which makes no sense, really: if the videotapes are still out there and people are being forced to copy and show them to new victims in order to survive (established here in the opening scene, which is quite creepy until the cheesy CGI money shot), wouldn’t this have become some sort of epidemic by this point? If a tape manages to surface in the hands of total strangers in the new town that Rachel (Watts) and her son Aidan (David Dorfman) have run off to, it stands to reason that they’re all over the place by this point. But rather than explore this potentially fascinating idea, screenwriter Ehren Kruger (Scream 3, Reindeer Games) decides to ignore this fact completely. It’s preposterous, really – to make this story an intimate mother-son struggle when a terrible evil has been unleashed to spread exponentially throughout the population is rather silly, and doesn’t exactly endear these short-sighted characters to the audience.
Considering the effective simplicity of the “mechanism of evil” of the first film (the haunted tape), I was surprised to see it buried after the opening scene in favor of a tepid child possession story that plays out like Audrey Rose meets A Nightmare on Elm Street (with a major plot point straight out of “Ghost”, of all things…). Actually, “The Ring Two” is eerily similar to another one of director Hideo Nakata’s Japanese films, “Dark Water”, which is coincidentally being remade as we speak. Featuring a similar storyline (a single mother whose child is haunted by a dead kid after they move into a new home), strikingly similar visuals (water, water, everywhere), and even the same climax (a bathtub bait-and-switch), “Dark Water” is a closer cousin to “The Ring Two” than “The Ring” was – it will be interesting to see how the marketing folks behind the Jennifer Connelly-starring remake handle that one.
Anyway, so we’re abandoning the whole killer tape thing, and now we’re worried that little Aidan is being invaded my Samara, who now wants to be reborn into a real child – fine. Disappointing, but fine. But despite some poppy visuals (the inverted bathtub scene is pretty neat, all told – and if you like teal, you’re in for a treat from start to finish), there’s very little going on. Aidan’s temperature begins to drop mysteriously, and water starts rearranging itself around the house (out of the fishtank, into the bed!), neither of which seem serious enough for Rachel to take the kid to the hospital. Sure, we know she’s a career woman – but is she also a closet Christian Scientist? Fortunately, her negligible parenting skills are called into question when the disposable Max (Simon Baker) catches Rachel drowning Aidan in the tub (she thinks it’s Samara), which leads to a mildly interesting subplot where Rachel is believed to be an unfit mother – which she undoubtedly is, even when she doesn’t drown her kid like a kitten and leave burnt handprints on his back.
Here Rachel is confronted by the disposable Dr. Temple (Elizabeth Perkins, channeling Bonnie Bedelia), who essentially calls her a crackmother and kicks her out of Aidan’s hospital room, which fortunately frees her up to do a little research and get the plot back on-track. As Aidan’s temperature continues to drop and Samara makes her entrance, Rachel discovers that the real Samara was adopted and that her birth mother tried to drown her. She hunts down the mama, and in one of the more interesting scenes, we learn that the loony Evelyn (Sissy Spacek) gets visits from troubled mothers like Rachel every few years – again, a glimpse of the interesting film that might have been that deals with the widespread effect of this curse. Anyway, Samara’s mom (we know it’s her birth-mother because they have the same hairstylist) tells Rachel that she’ll have to kill Aidan just like she tried to kill Samara, and if she doesn’t, the curse will spread (again, hasn’t it already? Aren’t the tapes still out there?). It’s just a damned shame to see Spacek reduced to a hair-in-the-face day-player, especially since her character serves no real purpose – but at least a trip to a sanitarium is more thrilling than a standard Internet Search Montage, which is blissfully absent here.
This all leads to a truly befuddling set of mini-climaxes strung together by a tenuous logic that seems made up on the spot. And just when you think it’s over, suddenly we’re back in the realm of the original film again and Rachel’s back in the well, scrambling away from an increasingly agile Samara. She delivers one of the worst and most out-of-place Fuck You Punchlines in the history of horror movies, and somehow things end up alright. Which, again, is completely ridiculous – even had the resolution of the story made any sense, and if the film we just watched hadn’t condoned both infanticide, suicide, and monochromatic design palettes, the curse laid out in the original film hasn’t even been addressed. So instead of providing closure or even advancing the story a little, we’re basically left where we started, only a little wetter: Rachel’s still a lousy mom, Aidan’s still precocious and lovably creepy, and the Pacific Northwest is still beautiful to behold. Even wee Dorfman’s admirable performance (he nails being possessed by an evil girl spirit with alarming accuracy, from what I can tell) isn’t enough to pull us through the muck, especially considering that Watts’ Rachel is pretty unwatchable this go-round.
A note for those folks who saw the original Japanese sequel: in case you haven’t figured it out, this film has absolutely nothing to do with that story (which dealt with the direct aftermath of the death of the male lead, and the mother-son flight to safety). Fans of the original American remake (does that even make sense?) might find some comfort in a few of the more repetitive elements (the original film’s horse freak-out is echoed – and surpassed – by a bizarre deer incident; the bookend-like beginning and ending are pretty in-line with the first movie), but the point that “The Ring Two” really drives home is just how tight the original film really was by comparison: driven by the ticking clock of “seven days”, the need to uncover the secret behind Samara’s curse was palpable and the surprises that the search uncovered were occasionally thrilling (and at the very least, unique). Here the events feel like soggy retreads. And even though a few scares hit the mark, with no urgency to drive the story or any character to identify with, the film wears thin by the halfway point.