The Ring twO
Directed by Hideo Nakata
Produced by Dreamworks
Goddamn, it could've been so much better.
Let's go back in time a bit. It all started with the 1998 Japanese horror movie about a tape which killed people seven days after they watched it, documenting a disturbing mystery about a little girl who was murdered, the circumstances of her death and a sadistic ghost. That was Ringu
(based off a novel by K?ji Suzuki). Ringu
grew to be a cult legend
and an international smash-hit, prompting a wave of copycat films- not just in Japanese cinema but across the globe, with comparable successes in Korea and, eventually, the US, with the 2002 remake The Ring
(directed by Gore Verbinski).
was fantastic. I loved it. Film purists will always cry that the remake is never as good as the original, but here we can dismiss that as petty whining. Verbinski's remake added a creative Hollywood twist to the slow-venom style of Japanese horror that made Ringu
so famous, by adding some very well-executed "jump-scares," and employing special effects that Ringu
could only've dreamed of. In the end, The Ring
revived the phenomenon that was the original in frightening new life. With booming success in America (p[rompting a new wave of wannabes, like FearDotCom), a sequel was inevitable. And who to direct it?
Hideo Nakata. Better known as the director of the original Ringu.
A recipe for success. When I heard of a sequel I was ecstatic. I couldn't wait to have my pants reshat with FEAR
Where did it all go so wrong?
Where The Ring
was an innovative film as far as the America horror genre goes, The Ring twO
was just your average run-of-the-mill ghost movie. It makes all the mistakes its predecessor skillfully avoided. I had fun watching it only as an avid fan of the original, but as a movie on its own, it fell flat on its face. Nakata pulled off the monster that started it all, so we know he's capable of amazing stuff. And the writer for twO
was also the writer for Verbinski's remake, so we know they could do better too. So why is twO
so bland and uninspired?
The simple, sad answer is that it was a sequel made for the sake of making a sequel. And so a bit of greed and uncaring ruined what
could've been a renaissance in American film. Don't misread me- it's happened before, and it's no surprise to me. After seeing the trailers I knew it would be like this. But still.
Goddamn, it could've been so much better.
Where does it go wrong? It forsakes key aspects that made the (American) original so fantastic.
Character development. Naomi Watts starred in The Ring
as Rachel Keller, a determined reporter dragged into the terrifying world of the Ring when the daughter of a friend falls victim to the cursed tape. Rachel has a spooky son, Aidan (David Dorfman), and an ambiguous relationship with a man named Noah (Martin Henderson). All three become entangled in the curse of the Ring when they watched the tape, and have seven days to solve to meaning of the disturbing images contained in it or suffer the same fate
as Rachel's friend's daughter.
Rachel is very much in control of her professional life, but we see she struggles to be a good mother to Aidan and has trouble really connecting to him. She has similar issues with Noah. None of this is spelled out for us- it's between the lines, conveyed over some subtle and intelligent dialogue that makes the characters real, and thus their plight and terror belieavable and significant. twO
decides this is a bad idea. The characters become shallow, and thus, lose all terror.
Even the mother of the little girl in the tape- Samara Morgan, the ghost antagonist of the two films- is disappointingly unfrightening, simple, and dull. Rachel's opening dialogue with Aidan is groanarific- it opens with an awkward series of exchanges where Rachel unconvincingly pleads with Aidan for him to call her "mom," not "Rachel." Immediately we know this will become a theme later on in the movie when Samara possesses Aidan and Rachel must confront the ghost and search out ehr real son. If you can't tell that from this dialogue you would know it from the trailers, all of which explain this much.
The director and writer may as well have beaned you on the forehead with a mallet and very slowly explained to you the entire plot of the movie right now.
Rachel loses all her depth. She becomes determined to save her son from Samara's grip, even if it means confronting her wildest fears from The Ring
all ove ragain, all of which she does with zero hesitation. How are we supposed to be scared if the protagonist is a stone-willed supermom with the personality of a shallow puddle?
In Verbinski's Ring
, Rachel explored the haunted history of Samara, the Morgan Ranch and the killer video with a degree of trepidation. At first she really doesn't believe what
is going on, and even as she accepts the horrifying reality Samara is creating, she only moves forward because she must, because her life is on the line and because the seemingly omnipotent, omnipresent and psychotic ghost of Samara is persistently goading her on with harrowing hallucinations and poultergeistry. In twO
she leaps into danger's way, there's even a scene where her psychic son is literally screaming at her to drive and get the fuck out of a certain patch of road, and Rachel just sits there, dumbfounded, asking her son what
At the end Rachel excorcises Samara's ghost from her son's body, but all is not over- the relentless spirit returns again, undaunted, to claim their lives. At this point I want to slap the schmuck who scripted this, because this is the one plot point that perfectly encapsulates why twO
loses, via shittty character development, nearly all possibility for terrifying the audience.
Rachel immediately decides to confront the ghost, face-to-face, unfazed, and let the ghost take her into its world so that her son can be free from its grip. I repeat. She sacrifices herself to the ghost. In the first time she is (very rightfully) terrified
of the thing- Samara's visions and hauntings are batshit horrifying, and all Rachel wants is to be free from them once and for all, to escape Samara's realm of terror at any cost. She never gives herself up to Samara, ever, in fact, every time she confronts her Rachel runs away in terror. Rachel is the audience's stand-in in the movie. If she's not scared out of her wits, how can we ever be?
But, no. Rachel confronts the ghost, gives herself up to it, then bests the ghost in a physical comeptition,
and that's the end of the story. It's pathetic. what
made Samara's ghost chilling in The Ring
was that she could do anything, she could be anywhere- indeed, she was everywhere
, the characters weren't even safe in their dreams. At the end of Ring
, Noah actually tries to run away at the end of his seven days and the ghost catches up to him by teleporting agressively right above him. In twO,
the ghost and Rachel are stucka t the bottom of a well and must climb out. Not only does Rachel get a five minute headstart where the director tries to build a suspense that should only be in action movies (it's a Does-the-hero-make-it-in-time? suspense, not a Holy-shit-something-terrible-is-about-to-happen suspense), but the ghost all of the sudden can't flicker, transport itself, or teleport like she does throughout the the two movies before that point.
That scene had the potential to be hair-raising. Samara is sufficiently creepy scaling the walls of the well- her joints bend in ways that human joints shouldn't, she moves with a frighteningly jerky speed undaunted by pain or difficultly. It makes her look really, really cool. I loved that part. what
killed the scene, though, is that all it took to beat Samara was to go into the TV with her, climb a well faster than her with a big headstart, and close it. That's it. All of the sudden a horror mystery with your life on the line against an omnipresent, vicious spirit becomes an episode of American Gladiators where you compete against a dead five-year-old-girl. Spooky.
Nevermind that this opens up at least twenty-nine plotholes, and leaves you feeling sorely disappointed. Samara died in the first place because she was sealed in that very same well. So- why would, uhm, sealing her ghost in that well...stop it? As a matter of fact, it never stopped it before- the well was sealed when Rachel rediscovers it in Ring.
You could suggest that the well Rachel seals in twO
is the metaphysical well in the world of Samara's tape, but even that doesn't work. Why? Because every time you see the tape, you'll notice- there isn't a seal anywhere around the well.
And that's the other big reason why twO
fails to deliver. It castrates all its insturments of horror. Samara is downsized from an unstoppable, undead, omnipotent psychopath who rips apart her victim's psyches for a week before disfiguring their bodies in a moment of raw terror and leaving the mangled corpse for their loved ones to find- to a dumb little witch who just wants a mommy really badly. Rachel even has a secret huddle-session with Aidan in their dreams, where Aidan explains very clearly literally exactly how to beat Samara. Wait. I thought Samara could invade their dreams? She could before. Whoops.
In the very beginning they ditch the very gimmick of the whole series, the evil tape, and switch to a ghost-on-the-loose plot. Where the first one tried to unravel the mystery of the perturbed imagery on the tape, the second is just an action-movie showdown between a fmaily and a ghost.
Rachel even delivers a tagline as she "finishes" Samara's ghost! You know, like when Ahnold goes "You have been terminated" as he kamikaze's the badguy in Terminator 3
. As Rachel seals the well, she shouts back "I'm not your fucking mommy!" what
in the holy hell were they thinking? You never, never have the goodguys face down the ghost, beat the crap out of it and shout back a final insult! what
kind of horror is that? Not only is Rachel facing her fears without blinking, she's facing the audience's fears for them, and kicking the crap out of them.
ditches the tape gimmick and in doing so loses any real plotline. It drops character depth and so the movie becomes straightforward and dull. It castrates all the fearful elements of the original and so, all things considered, it moves from a goddamn scary ghost story to a cartoonish action-drama where we know the good guys will win, we know exactly how, and the horror elements become just simple bad guys.
To be fair, there were some awesome scenes, and some fantastic shots, and creative "twists." But they were few and far between, and far from enough to save the whole movie. All in all, twO
feels like it should've been the crappy TV miniseries inspired by the movie rather than its actual followup.
Goddamn, it could've been so much better.