The Ring Two

"Look, I know this sounds completely crazy..."

In my review of last year’s The Grudge, I complained that the horror film didn’t bother to institute any rules to constrain and guide its villains and heroes, a vital element for a plot-driven thriller. The malevolent ghosts in that movie were essentially omnipotent, able to do anything, anywhere, though usually choosing appropriately drawn-out and cinematic ways to dispatch their victims. There were no defined problems and no possible solutions; the show essentially consisted of the characters walking around and getting killed.

That, I submit, is the least desirable aspect of Japanese horror cinema, and it is the one that has transferred most prominently to the American screen. The Ring 2 is the sequel to a popular remake of a Japanese horror film, and as with The Grudge, Hollywood has imported the series’ original director to translate (here, indirectly). It is not nearly so incoherent, but it far too often exhibits an “anything goes” mentality — there still seem to be no limits to what little, dead Samara can do to torment our poor heroes, including marshaling a fleet of elk to do her dirty work for her.

I did enjoy parts of The Ring Two, particularly in the latter half, when the focus shifts entirely to Rachel (Naomi Watts) and her suddenly possessed little boy (a creepy-as-hell David Dorfman). There, at least, the movie begins to sketch some sort of outline — the villain is given a weakness, and the protagonists are granted a method to potentially save themselves. For a while, I was involved on a level beyond rudimentary horror movie anticipation, and I hoped it would remain on its newfound intimate plane, perhaps even resolving its conflict in a way that’s fair and satisfying.

Unfortunately the screenplay starts running off at the mouth again, and we are treated to a ludicrous chase sequence, and a resolution that is as arbitrary as anything presented in the film’s miserable first act. For some reason, screenwriter Ehren Kruger (who has yet to live down his spectacular feature debut, Arlington Road) decided to introduce still more extraneous elements at this point, despite the fact that they don’t begin to make sense; there is a particular 11th hour assertion by the Watts character the implications of which I am still trying to comprehend.

Director Hideo Nakata has a portentious, deliberate style that might be mistaken for elegant if it weren’t so dull. Visually, the film resembles pretty much every other Japanese horror movie/remake I have seen — impeccably clean compositions, slow pans, lots of grays and cool blues in the color palette (Nakata does, somewhat interestingly, sometimes have a tendency to obstruct his shots by putting objects and people in the foreground). There is one clever shot in which a character talks on the phone off screen, then comes back on and continues to talk as a door slowly creaks closed behind him. For the most part, though, The Ring Two looks awfully typical; at least Gore Verbinski, the director of its American predecessor, had some artful touches to contribute (I didn’t like The Ring, but I still remember the scene with the horse on the ferry).

I think I like The Ring Two somewhat more than the first film anyway, though that may be because I approached The Ring with an almost feverish anticipation (little did I know it would be a simple and rather stupid ghost story). But it’s too arbitrary, too willing to sacrifice coherence at the altar of its rather tedious stylistics; it has a scare or two, and threatens to become involving at points, but in the end it simply does not have the intellectual mettle to satisfy.

-- Eugene Novikov

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Screening Log

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Richard LaGravanese, 2013

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