Bitchy movie critics like me would have you believe the obnoxiously ubiquitous movie sequel is a recent construct, when in fact it’s been around almost as long as movies themselves. From “The Thin Man” and its sequels to Universal’s horror movies, Hollywood is no stranger to milking a successful and popular film for more cash.
A funny thing happened in the last few decades, however. With the advent of the “blockbuster” film in the 1970s, studios had more reason than ever to go back to the well (note the clever “Ring”-related pun) repeatedly and churn out films that rarely differed substantially from the originals. As long as people were seeing their old favorite characters, who cared about plot or originality? I equate this with video game companies realizing they could get even more money out of players by allowing them to continue their game for another 25 cents. Not only could you carry on with the adventures of Hammer and Spike from the “Double Dragon” game, but there were also the continuing slash-tastic exploits of Jason Voorhees to enjoy.
Horror movies have long been the worst about stringing their audiences along. No longer can we count on the end of a movie bringing an end to the plot. After “Halloween” and “Friday the 13th,” studios decided box office gross outweighed narrative sense. All of this is simply my long-winded way of saying that “The Ring Two” is only the latest in a storied line of horror sequels that lacks a compelling reason outside of opening weekend gross to justify its creation in the first place.
Everyone remembers the first “Ring,” in which journalist Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts) comes across the sinister videotape that kills anyone who watches it (and also lets her boyfriend and son Aidan see it as well, nice going). She eventually solves the mystery of the tape and its subject – the little girl Samara – in time to save herself and her son (David Dorfman, continuing his Haley Joel Osment impersonation here), but not quite fast enough to help the boyfriend. C’est la vie.
As “The Ring Two” begins, Rachel and Aidan have left gloomy Seattle (and, one assumes, disposed of any extra copies of the tape) and moved to…gloomy Astoria, Oregon. Seems a little lazy, but the Pacific Northwest has a strange hold on people. Anyway, even crossing state lines isn’t enough to keep Samara away. She pops back up to narf a teenager who has inexplicably procured a copy of the tape. Further, she seems to have morphed from a restless spirit into vengeful ghost seeking a host body – more specifically, Aidan’s body. Pretty soon, we’re traveling back through familiar territory: creepy water scenes (Japanese horror directors do love their H2O), more research into the dead little girl’s past, and a final confrontation with Samara (or, as she’s listed in the credits to explain the fact that Daveigh Chase isn’t reprising her role, “Evil Samara”).
“The Ring Two” doesn’t do much besides giving original “Ringu” and “Ringu 2” director Hideo Nakata the chance to strut his stuff in front of a wide-release audience. Give him credit for introducing a few nice stylistic touches. There’s also an admittedly unsettling plotline involving mothers who drown their children in order to save them from Samara’s clutches. In these short years since the Andrea Yates case, this caused probably the most discomfort, certainly more than the ole “reverse mirror fake-out” and the “sudden reveal punctuated by loud music.”
Naomi Watts can almost make a character performing wild acts of logical inconsistency believable, but come on: if Samara can travel between the bodies of others, why does she need the video in the first place? If Rachel knows the girl died in a well, and that the appearance of water signals Samara’s entrance, why force Aidan to take a bath? And why in the name of James Cameron did they have to force Rachel to give with one of those climactic “up yours” lines (think “You’re terminated, f****r,” only more maternal)? “The Ring Two” has far too many plot holes that we’re forced to ignore due to plot expediency, and at a running time already closing in on two hours, expecting Rachel to act rationally is probably too much to ask of today’s on-the-go theater audiences, who no doubt are in a hurry to get home and catch “American Idol” on the TiVo. As it is, we’re left with another tepid PG-13 horror sequel that rehashes huge chunks of the original and, in the end, has almost nothing new to offer.