In the end though, much like the differences between the black and white ‘Ring’ videos/visions in the films themselves, this second go around lacks the texture, mood and teeth of the original. It’s a passable horror movie per se and better than much of the like that have come and gone in recent months. Still, whilst it’s arguably better at making one ‘jump’, it has lost its tortured soul in the process’, ‘The first and still most successful of the Japanese to American horror remakes, “The Ring” wasn’t a particularly scary ghost story (“The Grudge” remake and the original “Ringu” for example were better at delivering shocks & jumps), but it certainly remains one of the most eerie to date. Combining strong performances, an interesting and better built mystery than its originator, and some of the best cinematography and atmosphere ever seen in this genre, it’s a film to this day I enjoy every time I watch and stands above most films of the like.
Its sequel on the other hand is very run of the mill. Watts and Dorfman return and deliver strong work yet again but are cut off at the knees by a limp script which barely scratches the interesting mysteries and concept the first film and the opening sequence of this movie setup. Instead it spends much of its time squandering our attention on a tired possession story filled with predictable beats and various moments which defy not only natural logic but the ‘rules’ of the “Ring” universe set up in both the first film and much of this. Samara herself has gone from being a real creepy little girl to something like ‘The Terminator’.
Missing also is the brilliant cinematography. I’m not a big fan at all of the ‘blue hue’ trick that filmmakers use to give their movies a cold and odd look whether it be Spielberg’s “Minority Report” or TV’s “CSI: New York”. The first “Ring” however was about the sole exception, its combination of rain soaked Seattle locations with a colour palette of blue, black and green with the occasional bold red was simply breathtaking. To this day I’ve yet to see a movie so effectively convey an ‘overcast’ sky on film like that, and it really builds the atmosphere (the haunting score helped a lot too).
Nakata’s direction on the sequel however is far less interesting. The guy comes up with a few impressive visuals, most notably a bathroom sequence involving water flowing upwards and a solid ending ‘climb off’ scene within the well and surrounding area. However much of the rest of the film is very ordinary looking and sad to say – cheap. It all goes more for the stupid shocks than ever building up suspense or mystery. An attempt is made to investigate a mystery about Samara, but feels trite compared with the first film.
Yet he gets a few things right. Some shots harken back to the first movie in a clever way, as does much of the score (most of the new music ain’t too bad either). The opening scene and the ending are well paced and, whilst a little silly, do the scares well. His reliance on Watts and Dorfman to carry pretty much all the movie works out well, not surprising considering very lackluster performances from Baker, Spacek, and the like. Gary Cole puts in a fun cameo as a somewhat duplicitous realtor, and Watts manages to squeeze out a one-liner that would make an 80’s action hero proud.
In the end though, much like the differences between the black and white ‘Ring’ videos/visions in the films themselves, this second go around lacks the texture, mood and teeth of the original. It’s a passable horror movie per se and better than much of the like that have come and gone in recent months (“Hide & Seek”, “Boogeyman”, “Cursed”). Still, whilst it’s arguably better at making one ‘jump’, it has lost its tortured soul in the process. The first “Ring” is right up there with “The Others” as being one of the best ‘creepy’ movies out of the US in the last decade, “Ring Two” will go down as just an average entry in the decidedly dull and ever increasing attempts at PG-13 horror.