Directed by Hideo Nakata. Running time: 1:46. MPAA rating: Rated PG-13 for violence/terror, disturbing images, thematic elements and some language.
Naomi Watts……….Rachel Keller
Simon Baker……….Max Rourke
David Dorfman……….Aidan Keller
Elizabeth Perkins……….Dr. Emma Temple
Gary Cole……….Martin Savide
Quick note: This film can be considered horror or thriller, depending on how you look at it, really. For the sake of argument, it’ll be considered a horror film for this review.
The Ring is, arguably, the best horror film to come out in the last couple of years. It was original – a breath of fresh air in an otherwise stale and lifeless genre in Hollywood. The film was brilliant and scary. Subtle and terrifying. The re-worked version of the Japanese hit proved a success and earned millions of dollars in box office and DVD revenue. A sequel was announced and people held their heads high with hope. Fans became even more excited when it was annouced that the original Japanese director of both Ringu and Ringu 2, Hideo Nakata, would be helming this film. This would not only be another great horror film, they said, but also a worthy sequel in the land of the lame.
Well, as it turns out, this film can’t hold much of a candle to the original.
Here’s the plot: It’s been six months since that week of hell where Rachel (Watts) and Aiden (Dorfman) were tormented by the evil spirit of the girl named Samara. After passing on the tape, Rachel and Aiden move from Seattle to Astoria, Oregon to shake off their past and get back into the normal side of life. This doesn’t last long, however, and before they can even settle in, Rachel hears news of a teenage death. All anyone can keep talking about is his face. So Rachel checks it out and realizes with horror that Samara is still around. Soon, Aiden begins to have chilling nightmares about the girl, and Rachel realizes things are much, much different this time around. Once again, she embarks on a detective-like quest to figure out what is going on, and to stop Samara before it’s too late.
It’s not a bad plot by any means. There were only so many ways to continue the story from the first, really, and in theory this is an excellent idea. However, the execution of the plot is pretty poor. The movie actually feels like an addition to the first instead of a justified sequel. It also seems to go against the downright evil Samara fans were introduced to in the first movie. Sure, it’s explained, kind of, that Samara wants a mother and Rachel is perfect – she tried to save me, so she must love me is her logic. But honestly, that just doesn’t feel right after the first one. It feels like a desperate need to put motivation and character behind a figure that needs neither – she’s a damned angry spirt hell bent on killing people. Perhaps if the original movie hadn’t established so much lore, this would have worked. Instead, it feels like it sort of trips along the way and never really gets going.
In fact, that should be the overall theme here – if The Ring didn’t exist, this film would be a homerun, hands down. The potential tension is there, the acting is fantastic, and the scares seem legit. It’s fantastic to watch a horror film and be scared by something other than cheap thrills with loud music. But again, The Ring introduced everyone to this, and it did it a hell of a lot better. The pacing in this movie is all off, and while there exists tension, it soon starts to drag and then becomes downright boring. It picks up some great momentum at the end though, culminating in the “Well Chase” everyone has heard so much about. Sadly, this too was a letdown – instead of being tremendously suspenseful or downright scary, the scene comes across as a joke. The audience was actually laughing throughout, though it is safe to say it will be considered classic in the mind’s of many a movie-goer due to Rachel’s awesome one-liner at the end. But one-liners a good movie do not make. This ending actually produces a logic hole so big you can drive a truck through it, and it makes no sense considering the ending established in the first film.
It all comes back to that, really. The first film set such a precedent, perhaps this one was impossible to live up to it, try as it did. The chemistry between Watts and Dorfman is fantastic, and Dorfman is brilliant as Aiden. He makes this movie his, hands down, and does a hell of a job with his character. Watts adds depth to Rachel where others would be hardpressed to do anything more than go through the motions. And….well, wait a second. There is no one else to credit, really. There is absolutely no one else established in this film, no other character to care about or become interested in. Everyone exists basically for one purpose, and that is to be ghost fodder. How can you do that??? Honestly, this was one of the most surprising things about this movie, and while Watts and Dorfman do a fine job carrying this film on their shoulders, it’s just disappointing to see absolutely no one else be even remotely important in this film.
This movie makes it a point to address many questions about Samara and her past left up in the air by the first film. Why, then, does this move have so many damn plot holes? It makes no sense. Perhaps the biggest and best example comes from the insultingly underused Sissy Spacek, who turns out to be a major character from Samara’s past. When visited by Rachel, a guard makes a crypitc statement, basically saying there have been many others before Rachel. So, wait a second, if that’s true, then why chose Aiden? What happened to those people then if Samara is still hanging around? Does the ending actually mean something, or is it just a step in a never ending process, and Samara is just going to show up lurking around someone else some day? The ending of this movie seems to send the message “This is over” and that this franchise knows its limits and stops here. This makes it even more inexcusable to bring up such radical plot points *never mind how lame they may be* and just dismiss them off hand. Unless….Hollywood plans a prequel? *Gasp* Or another sequel?! Lord knows they’d NEVER do that!
The fact of the matter is this movie should not be called The Ring 2, but instead maybe The Ring 1.5. It feels like it’s going through most of, if not all of the motions of the first film. In fact, thinking about it, most of this could just be an added on plot that could be explained away in five minutes of The Ring. Really, it feels like transition material more than sequel, and that is a shame. This movie had fan’s and non-fan’s hopes incredibly high going in, and it’s a shame that it comes no where near meeting them.