HCF REWIND NO. 153: THE RING 2 
AVAILABLE ON DVD
RUNNING TIME: 105 min/ 113 min [‘unrated’ version]
REVIEWED BY:Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
Approximately six months after the events of the first movie, Rachel Keller and her son Aidan have moved from Seattle to the quiet coastal community of Astoria, Oregon, where Rachel begins a new job at a local newspaper. A murder occurs and Rachel sees that the victim’s face shows a deformed expression of horror just like the previous victims of Samara’s cursed tape, and has a vision of Samara grabbing her and declaring “I found you.” She finds the tape, takes it deep into the woods and burns it. However, Aidan dreams of being pulled into the TV screen by Samara, and afterwards develops hypothermia, has bruises on his arm and behaves increasingly oddly….
The Ring 2 is generally considered to be a major let down after the first film, and I remember very well the feeling of disappointment in the air that was around when the sequel hit cinemas. It isn’t as good as The Ring, but I think a case could be made for it being more interesting. Hiring the director of the Japanese version Hideo Nakata was a good idea, and it means that it feels far more like the Japanese movies, though plot wise it bears hardly any resemblance to the Japanese Ringu 2. Getting Ehren Kruger to write another script, only this time without an original story to base it on, was not a good idea, though the film’s total lack of logic helps give it an almost dreamlike feel in places. Ridiculous and misjudged scenes often alternate with scenes of great atmosphere and texture. To enjoy The Ring 2 at all, it’s probably best to just ignore the stupid story, otherwise it falls apart right from the first few minutes.
Originally Richard Kelly was asked to direct, and Noam Murro was set to, but he dropped out of the project due to ‘creative differences’. Supposedly, and this may have been nonsense to help promote the film [but this isn’t a first for a horror move and won’t be the last], various strange things happened on set which often resembled scenes fron the film. Most notably, a deer attacked a set costumer, the production office was flooded twice by a burst water pipe and a water jug bursting open respectively, and a swarm of bees attacked the prop truck and then suddenly disappeared. A Japanese purification ceremony by a Shinto priest achieved nothing. The critically poorly received film still managed to be a box office success. The studio cut eight minutes from the film, including a scene where Samera tries to enter Aidan in a public bathroom and some scenes between Rachel and her would-be romantic interest Max. These scenes were put back into the R1 Unrated DVD and also seem to be in the R2 DVD version that was paired with a re-release of The Ring, though I’ve found no claims to substantiate this. One scene was also cut out from this version- Aidan meeting a deer – and that isn’t on my DVD either.
The Ring 2 opens with a guy trying to get a girl to watch the tape. He’s seen it, but will live so long as he shows it to somebody else before his time is up. This is a little confusing if you haven’t watched Rings. Rings was a short film made at the time The Ring was re-released and The Ring 2 entered cinemas, and, despite some irritating shakycam by director Jonathan Liebesman, it’s actually rather good. It leads up to the first few minutes of The Ring 2, and also introduces some of its motifs like water. Cynics may say it was made because they realised The Ring 2 made little sense and therefore needed to be connected to The Ring a bit more. What is best about Rings is its superb idea, suggested by the last few pages of Kôji Suzuki’s Ring novel, that knowledge of the curse, as well as copies of the videotape, have burgeoned into a bizarre kind of underground subculture fuelled by the internet, with groups of people watching each other’s tapes, especially for new members, to ensure that they can have a “Ring Experience”. What a clever, disturbing and still timely notion this is, and wouldn’t it have been really good if The Ring 2 had explored this subject in more depth? The possibilities were considerable.
Well, we all know that it didn’t, instead opting for a weak possession story of the kind we’ve seen hundreds of times before, except this one’s tamer than many, the possessed Aidan not really doing much at all. Some of the early scenes are quite chilling, like when Aidan is standing in a corner or a room scratching a wall with what are Samara’s finger-nails, the strange black substance resulting forming into a picture of the tree seen in Samara’s video. It helps that David Dorfman has clearly improved as an actor and acts some moments with considerable sensitivity. Unfortunately, he’s obviously three years older than he was in The Ring, despite the events of this film supposedly only taking place six months after. And as the film progresses, it’s obvious that little has actually been thought through. Rachel and Aidan are attacked in their car by [surprisingly convincing] deer. Why? We later have a scene where Rachel visits the farm where Samara was mistreated and died, and finds a load of antlers in the basement. Presumably the deer sensed Samara’s ghost’s presence in Aidan and attacked the car in revenge? But Samara didn’t go around killing deer as a child, did she? And it would have made far more sense if it had been horses, thereby continuing things from the first movie, wouldn’t it? And let’s not just get into the inconsistency of Samara’s abilities or powers. For God’s sake she can now seemingly climb up the wall of her well, so why couldn’t she have stopped Rachel from closing the well entrance?
Now I know I mentioned in my review of The Ring that Ringu left a lot to our imagination, but much of The Ring 2 just smacks of carelessness. A doctor suspects Rachel is abusing Aidan, but this is soon forgotten about. Like The Ring, it soon becomes bogged down in Rachel investigating the back story, though this does lead to a rather quietly powerful scene between Rachel and Samara’s real mother, played with painful conviction by Sissy Spacek. The mother-child bond from Nakata’s Dark Water, plus its water imagery [though even this is silly, because we’re never told why Samara hates water], are partially rehashed but to lesser effect, and the potentially touching elements of the story don’t become anywhere near as moving as they should be. Though some will disagree, there is more horror than in the first film, with at least one really good shock of Samara’s arms showing up in a bath, and there’s a really intense climax where mother has to drown child. Nakata creates some amazing suspense in the drawn out final section set in Rachel’s house, suspense which is comparable to what he created in Ringu with its careful camerawork and use of sound [and silence], only for it to be weakened with a silly occurrence or a poor bit of dialogue. In the end, it mostly comes down to a good director and cast battling valiantly against a terrible script, creating a very uneven picture.
Noami Watts is as good as before and the score, not credited to Hans Zimmer but with Henning Lohner and Martin Tillman utilising the same music, is again effective, though some more emotive scoring would have probably been a good idea. I am quite fond of The Ring 2 despite its many problems, there are parts of it which work really well and it has a certain oddness which is rather appealing. It remains a seriously flawed exercise though, and if only they had used the premise of Rings…..