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The Ring Two’ more juvenile, less creepy than the original

Brian Doxtader | Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Horror films tend to fall into one of two camps. There are those in which things jump out at you and you scream, and there are those that are more disturbingly creepy than actually scary. Gore Verbinski’s 2002 movie “The Ring” fell into the latter, while its sequel, released this month, is better situated in the former. The Ring was a remake of Hideo Nakata’s 1998 film “Ringu,” which was a massive success in its native Japan. “The Ring Two” is directed by Nakata, though it bears only a passing resemblance to “Ringu 2,” which he made in 1999.Naomi Watts and David Dorfman reprise their roles from the first film as reporter Rachel Keller and her son Aidan. They have just moved to the sleepy town of Astoria in order to fully extricate themselves from the events of “The Ring.” Of course, it’s not long before dead bodies start showing up with the same symptoms as the victims of the first film. Interestingly enough, “The Ring Two” only uses the first film’s plot as springboard; its narrative structure bears only a passing resemblance its predecessor. This is encouraging, since most Hollywood sequels tend to play it safe and rehash the formula that was so successful the first time around. The videotape, which was so key in the first film, is almost a non-factor here, as “The Ring Two” concentrates more on the relationship between Aidan and Rachel. As expected, most of the other characters are cardboard cut-outs. Simon Baker’s reporter Max is particularly wasted. Yet the film is never as creepily effective as either “Ringu” or “The Ring” precisely because it doesn’t follow the same pattern as its forebears. It’s still scary, but this is credited more to the camerawork and sound design than the actual premise and plot of the picture. Nakata is to be admired for departing so much from the original idea, but the result is only partially successful.The biggest problem is that “The Ring Two” gets bogged down by a terrible script and implausible events. Inane dialogue, impossibilities and strange character behavior are trademarks of this genre and this film has them in spades. That might be what is most disappointing – despite often falling into standard horror conventions, “The Ring Two” tries to be a good film. It tries really hard. Nakata brings style and flair to the proceedings and Naomi Watts’ steadfast performance evokes Ellen Burstyn’s desperate mother from “The Exorcist” (although Burstyn had the good fortune to be in a much better movie). The most glaring offender is the screenplay, which often seems forced. There are a handful of good ideas here and there, but none of them are fully realized. The film tries to deepen the central conceit of the first film, but the script is often counter-productive. Major plot points are left unexplained. Characters still go alone into dark places. Things jump out of corners of the frame. And there is a mid-film attack so bizarre that it evokes laughter rather than terror. “The Ring Two” feels like it should be a deeper, more hauntingly disturbing experience than it is, which is disheartening. At moments it seems like it’s going to develop into something more, with the particularly pertinent theme of motherhood coming across, but Nakata never fully explores this. The Ring Two is not a bad film – it is an enjoyable and sporadically scary way to spend a couple of hours, but it often feels like wasted potential.