First off, this is the kind of sequel where you really should see the Ring before seeing the Ring Two. In addition to the many visual and character references, you also will understand that the second in the series, while scarier, lacks the first’s novelty and many of its strengths.
Single-mom and journalist, Rachel (Naomi Watts), has packed up son, Aidan (David Dorfman), and the city apartment in favor of a new start away from the killer-video-tapes of Seattle. Settling into their new house in a small town near the ocean, Rachel promises Aidan that they did what they had to do to survive, regardless of the immorality of placing other people at risk of the tape’s deadly curse. No sooner can Rachel say “we are safe now”, then she hears about a local teen who has died from terror in front of his television.
Rachel destroys the new tape only to find that deadly little tape-ghost, Samara (Kelly Stables and, on tape, Daveigh Chase), has designs on taking over Aidan. The chase is on: Rachel must find out how to get Samara out of their lives for good, seeking help from the young ghost’s biological mother (Sissy Spacek in a disappointing cameo as the “crazy” women who mothers seek out for advice on their unruly kids). Realizing she will have to take care of business herself, Rachel dives into a series of watery endings that come together in a muddy puddle, ultimately demonstrating that maternal love wins over evil. Or something to that effect.
The crux of the Ring Two’s scariness is that Samara is free from the rules of the first movie. She pops out of the video and into their lives without the requisite seven-day waiting period and, like Edward Gorey’s Doubtful Guest, shows no intention of leaving. When she makes the Child Protective Services agent assigned to Aidan’s case inject herself in the jugular with a syringe full of air, Samara is showing that this is her world now and it will work to her rules. The dominant imagery in the Ring Two is water and hydrophobic Samara, killed in a well, exercises her nightmares on all those she touches.
Director Hideo Nakata, who was the mastermind behind the Ring’s inspiration (Japanese blockbuster “Ringu” and the less popular “Ringu 2”), excels at atmospherics but is lazy with plot. While spookier than the first, the bare bones of the movie read like a rehashed Lifetime (cable’s “television for women”) drama. A mom protects her child against a threat no one else understands, only to be forcibly removed from her child by authorities, who in turn are punished, and to end the horror, mom must sacrifice herself in some way, thus saving her child.
If you are willing to jump over the plot’s many weak bits, then this psychological thriller is a good-looking spook-fest and a should-see for fans of the original. For those looking for a tight, tense stand-alone horror movie, they might want to peek into another dark corner.
Parents should know that this movie is extremely scary and there is near-constant peril for all the major characters. Younger and horror-adverse audiences will be frightened by numerous scenes and images, including the attempted murder of young children and the suicides of parents. There are deer attacks, attempted drownings, chase scenes, a spooky basement and the non-explicit but horrific off-screen deaths of characters. There is a very graphic “suicide” and references to madness. A character swears in a very memorable and scary scene.
Families who see this movie might want to talk about the consequences of our actions. At the end of the Ring, Rachel made a choice and the Ring Two represents the outcome of her choice. What else could she have done? What are the teenagers in the beginning of the movie choosing to do in a similar situation? What would you do differently?
Families who enjoy watching scary movies together want to watch “Poltergeist”, “The Grudge”, “The Sixth Sense”, or “The Shining”. If they have not yet seen “The Ring” then they should watch that before this sequel.