The son’ll come out, Samara
Bet your bottom dollar this sequel to The Ring sucks
Truly, this one sucks. It’s not as intolerable as Hide and Seek, but it’s still so lousy that it stops just short of being camp.
If you’ve seen 2002’s The Ring, you know the routine: There’s this bastard VHS tape floating around featuring Samara, the ghoul next door, who bides her time waiting for curious teens to pop the tape into the deck. All twitchy and pasty fleshed, dank hair hanging down over her face, she looks like something pulled from the drain of a nightmare bathtub. Her skeleton key to this mortal coil is the tape—after one views it, the phone rings and Samara rasps, “Seven days.” Seven days later, the unfortunate will die horribly—unless he or she shows the tape to someone else. Then that person has to show it to someone else, and so on…
Kinda messed up, right?
So, following a been-there-done-that opening scene, here we have former television reporter Rachel (Naomi Watts) and her creepy son (David Dorfman) bailing Seattle following their first run-in with Samara and settling down in a sleepy Oregon town. You can tell Rachel isn’t too bright because she has a television, VCR and telephone in her new house. You’d think she’d be a little leery of those devices after the events of the first movie, but nooooo…
She takes a job editing for the local daily and during the first day on the job finds that a young boy has died under mysterious circumstances, the kind that make her realize that Samara is back and that she wants to dispossess Rachel’s son from his body and take up residence. And so it goes.
Hideo Nakata (director of the Japanese original, Ringu) is at the helm, and you’d think he’d have a pretty good idea of what goes on with the mythos of the series. If he does, he doesn’t have a very cohesive way of conveying it in this sequel-in-near-name only. The internal logic from the first films does not carry over into this one, with a Scream-centric opening scene being the only appearance of the dread videotape (although Ringu opened the same way). Phones do not ring. Circles of friends do not pass the curse around. Instead, the spirit of Samara is set loose to commit mayhem willy-nilly with a contradictory explanation and with no new internal logic applied in its place.
Absurdities abound instead. Crime scene investigators would not pack a suspected homicide in a Gucci leather bag, then drape it with a white sheet, no matter how upscale the community was. Nor would they leave the corpse of a suspected homicide victim unattended in the ambulance for enterprising reporters to unveil the deadly truth. Nor would they leave a crime scene unmarked or unattended for the reporter to return and coyote the evidence (said reporter showing remarkable savvy that, when confronted by a locked door, turns over three stones in the garden before finding the hidden key).
The kid is committed to a hospital ward under the cloud of parental abuse, telepathically forces a warden to commit suicide (um, hello The Omen?), walks home, and the authorities can’t be bothered to follow this up? What the…?
What we have here is easily some of the most slapdash writing of the year, serving as nothing more than a vehicle to sample liberally from each of the Japanese horror flicks that followed in the wake of the success of the original Ringu, most obviously Karata’s own Dark Water and Takashi Shimizu’s Ju-on: The Grudge.
Discarding the benchmark air of melancholy that makes the Japanese horror genre unique, Karata instead applies stale Hollywood gloss, utilizing cheap musical stabs to provoke scares instead of building suspense.
It is not aided by the uniformly horrible acting. Watts can’t even convey eating a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich convincingly here and is prone to exiting houses only to turn and look back, brow furrowed and lips pinched. Young David Dorfman is so creepy from the onset that it is hard to summon up any empathy for his plight.
The scariest aspect of The Ring 2 is that Sissy Spacek now looks like what Michael Jackson will look like in 10 years.