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Ring sequel a disappointment

By Lady Liberty
web posted March 21, 2005

The Ring 2

* 1/2 out of ****

The Ring 2Many of you know that I'm a horror fan from way back. Since I was a little girl, I've read more than a few horror books and made a point of seeing any number of horror movies. As a result, I'm both fussy as far as quality is concerned, and really tough to scare. That's why I so loved the movie The Ring. The premise was original; the production was good and and the script excellent; and it truly frightened me. Perfect! Such a predecessor, of ccourse, left The Ring 2 with a substantial legacy to try to match. Still, as good as the first movie was, the second could have been quite good even without living up to the original. Unfortunately, not only is The Ring 2 nowhere near as good as the original but it's not even as good as many other more average horror movies have managed.

Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts) and her son, Aidan (David Dorfman) survived the predations of the first film. Now some six months later, they've moved to a small town in Oregon to start a new life. Top notch investigative reporter Rachel has taken a job with a local newspaper where such events as discussions of building a new bridge or a minor fender bender are the top stories of the day. Co-worker Max Rourke (Simon Baker) wonders if this is the place for big city reporter Rachel, but she assures him she only wants a job where she can spend more time with her son.

Rachel and Aidan have only been in town a matter of days when the biggest story The Daily Astorian has seen in years breaks: a teenager is found dead, and his death is conjectured to be the result of a homicide. The only witness is the pretty teenage girlfriend of the victim (Emily Van Camp), and she's all but catatonic with shock. Rachel is immediately suspicious, and it doesn't take her long to learn that this death is just like those that so horrified her in Seattle. With dawning horror, Rachel learns that the evil Samara (Kelly Stables) isn't so much trying to kill people this time as she is trying to come back to life herself. And Samara has apparently chosen Aidan as the person she wants to live through.

Aidan himself is all too well aware that something is happening to him. Though he shows surprising strength in his determination to fight for his identity, he's losing the battle. So with Aidan in the hospital and under the care of Dr. Emma Temple (Elizabeth Perkins), it's left to Rachel to frantically search for a way to save her son. Max tries to help, but soon starts to suspect that the real danger to Aidan is his mother. Meanwhile, Rachel comes to believe that the answers she needs must come from Samara's birth mother herself—if only she can find her.

Naomi Watts is a pretty actress and very good in this sort of role. She's not heroic per se, but her refusal to give up no matter the odds makes her as courageous as any superhero could ever be. David Dorfman once again shows considerable acting ability, and he more than holds his own in his scenes with the award-winning Watts. Simon Baker's character seems almost an afterthought and he's one-dimensional as a result. That, however, has little if anything to do with acting ability and everything to do with the direction and the script. Gary Cole shows up in the film as a smarmy real estate agent and, while amusing, really seems grafted uncomfortably onto the storyline. Sissy Spacek, however, as an inmate at a mental institution, gives a wonderful performance in what is a far too limited role.

The Ring 2 is directed by Hideo Nakata, the man who started The Ring phenomenon with Ringu and Ringu 2 in Japan. The Ring 2 marks his American directorial debut, and he acquits himself reasonably well. Although there are some editing problems (most notably the fallback fade to black between far too many scenes), the direction is largely fine though certainly not breaking any new ground. The special effects are terrific, enough so that you'll be leery of bathtubs or woodland drives for a time to come (in fact, a scene involving deer in the woods is extraordinary in particular). My primary complaint is with the script and the story. It seems...ordinary. A really good script could have taken the adequate direction and mostly decent acting and lifted it to the level of The Ring. Needless to say, a poor script did just the opposite.

There was nothing particularly special about the plot and the storyline was often predictable—not a good thing in what is supposed to be a scary movie. There were a few "startle" moments of the kind to make you jump in your seat, but there was no real horror or terror where The Ring 2 was concerned. And seeing the movie with a friend who hadn't seen the original also illustrated just how very dependent the second film was on the story told in the first. I suppose that's fine for fans of The Ring, but it doesn't bode well for an expansion of the audience. Frankly, by virtue of the mediocrity of the story in The Ring 2, I suspect that even most existing fans will find The Ring 2 as disappointing as I did.

POLITICAL NOTES: When Aidan lands in the hospital, doctors almost immediately assume that his mother is both lying about how the boy got there as well as her complicity in his bruises. Max himself has good reason to suspect Rachel, but the doctors prohibit Rachel from her son's room almost reflexively. In the movies, this makes for good drama when an innocent parent must overcome the assumption of guilt. In the real world, lives are ruined and children forever scarred by a mentality that assumes guilt rather than attempts to prove it. While I condemn child abuse in the strongest possible terms, I must also condemn the fact that the merest accusation by even the most incredible sources have become sufficient to take children from loving parents. At the same time, we're burdened with a child welfare system that all too often leaves kids—or returns them—to the most hideous abuse (a dead child in Florida, cared for by a woman who should have never passed a background check and then dead for months before anyone even noticed she was missing, is merely one example).

FAMILY SUITABILITY: The Ring 2 is rated PG-13 for "violence, terror, disturbing images, thematic elements and some language." There's really not all that much to be scared of in The Ring 2, but there are most assuredly some images involving young children that are eminently unsuitable for those under the age of 12 or so. For those older than that, The Ring 2 has its moments, but they're few and far between. I recommend seeing The Ring first if you've not already seen it due to the necessary background you'll need to really understand all that happens in The Ring 2. Better still, I recommend seeing The Ring if you've not already seen it, and then renting some other movie that really delivers on the horror instead of the lackluster effort that is The Ring 2.

Lady Liberty is a graphic designer and pro-freedom activist currently residing in the Midwest. More of her writings and other political and educational information is available on her web site, Lady Liberty's Constitution Clearing House, at http://www.ladylibrty.com. E-mail Lady Liberty at ladylibrty@ladylibrty.com.


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