Movie Review: Ringu 2 (2001) and The Ring 2 (2005)

Hideo Nakata Is Back – Directing Both the Japanese Sequel and the American Sequel

November 12 2005 Categorized Under: Movie Reviews No Commented
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Ringu 2 (2001)
Director: Hideo Nakata
Starring: Miki Nakatani, Rikiya Otaka, Nanako Matsushima

Star Rating (out of 4)

The Ring Two (2005)
Director: Hideo Nakata
Starring: Naomi Watts, David Dorfman, Sissy Spacek, Simon Baker

Star Rating1/2 (out of 4)

Ringu
Hey, I’ve seen this movie! Ring 17, right?

Hideo Nakata is the man responsible for the Japanese movie Ringu, (itself a remake of a Japanese TV-movie made in 1995), which kicked off an Asian horror craze both in Japan and in the United States as well as spawning two sequels, a prequel, an American remake, a Korean remake, and even a TV series. Ringu 2, also directed by Nakata, is actually the second sequel to his first film.

Stay with me. Nakata’s Ringu and its first sequel, Rasen, were shot back-to-back from two novels by Japanese author Koji Suzuki. Audiences loved Ringu but hated Rasen (which had a different director and certainly took the story in a different direction). Therefore, Nakata was tasked with doing a new “official” sequel, called Ringu 2. Honestly, he shouldn’t have bothered – Rasen is, in my humble opinion, a more interesting picture, even if isn’t that good either.

Ringu
Now nobody will ever know Japan’s funniest home video

Newcomers to the Ring series will probably be wondering what the fuss is all about. Well it turns out that in Ringu, a reporter and her son come across a strange videotape that causes the unfortunate viewer to die exactly seven days later. The videotape is sent by creepy long-haired girl Sadako (Samara in the American version), who possessed psychic powers while she was alive and was thrown down a deep well by her mother, who later committed suicide. The only way to break the curse is to make a copy of the tape for someone else to see, thus spreading the curse like a virus. Brilliant stuff, actually, this modern take on the urban legend – the illustration of media as the message, being viral in nature, and the only antidote is to spread it to others. It’s understandably popular in the Internet age where memes travel like wildfire.

Ringu
Being forced to watch Ju-on

So, what’s the story with Ringu 2? Well, it turns out that Sadako isn’t through with poor Yoichi (Rikiya Otaka) and his mother Reiko (Nanako Matsushima). Yoichi seems to be developing psychic powers like Sadako, and when Reiko is killed, Mai (Miki Nakatani) steps in to help. Mai was the girlfriend of Yoichi’s dad in the first film, and has been investigating the strange events surrounding the videotape and his death. She also happens to possess some psychic ability, and sure enough, she’ll have to use all the strength she has to stop Sadako from coming back into the world through a new human host. So yes, it’s another silly possession story that meanders around from one scene to another while nothing of any consequence really happens. The only truly interesting sequence of the piece is a scene in an asylum where Sadako’s well appears on the television causing panic among the inmates (the only ones who can sense Sadako’s presence). It’s always the crazies, isn’t it? Predictable, too – Mai has visions on cue and faints right around the time every audience member says “I bet now she’ll faint.”

Then things get really goofy when some doctor explains it all away as “energy transfer” or some hokum, and attempts to solve everything by attaching electrodes to Mai and Yoichi, hoping to transfer Sadako’s spirit into a giant pool of water. Yes, it’s that dumb. Then there’s the all too familiar subtext of fear being the true killer – wait for the moment where little Yoichi will have to “transfer” his fear out, and then just sit around waiting for the final “boo” moment which seems like it was cribbed straight from Candyman.

Ring 2
Trust me, Aurora Snow is a good actress!

These days, Hollywood likes to steal from Asian cinema, but it doesn’t trust American audiences to watch movies with subtitles. I suppose it’s like that walk-and-chew-gum scenario. Naturally, we’ve got remakes up to our ears these days – The Ring, The Grudge, Dark Water, and of course, Ring 2. And who better to helm the remake than Hideo Nakata himself? The problem is, he’s got writer Ehren Kruger to deal with. You remember Scream 3 and Reindeer Games, don’t you?

Ring Two
Now nobody will ever know America’s funniest home video

Rachel (Naomi Watts) and her creepy son Aiden (David Dorfman, probably slated for an M. Night Shyamalan film in the future) are trying to forget the events of the first Ring by moving to small town Astoria, Oregon. Samara’s down but not out – a videotape turns up and kills a high school student (in the movie’s opening sequence – the best scene in the movie and a glimpse of what might have been). But then, Rachel burns the cassette, and thus the videotape element of the story is completely discarded in favor of – you guessed it – a possession story as Samara tries to come back to the world of the living through Aiden. Like Ringu 2, Ring 2 takes the Nightmare on Elm St. 2 route – jettisoning the medium (video cassette/dreams) and bringing the killer into our world. But Ring 2 is stupid and pointless – at least Freddy’s Revenge had subtext to chew on. Ring 2 has nothing but the same template from the first film – it even tries to reproduce the horse scene in a completely ridiculous sequence involving CGI deer attacking a car. “Don’t Stop!” cries Aiden, but does Rachel listen? Hell, no. Aiden’s temperature drops five degrees below normal but does Rachel take him to the hospital? What do you think? I’m not saying there’s no ghost and that she’s crazy – I’m saying that there’s a ghost and she’s crazy.

Ring Two
You ran over my father. Prepare to die.

In a rather amusing scene, Sissy Spacek plays a whacked out mental patient who tells Rachel that the only way to beat Samara is to “listen to your son”. Let’s see her explaining that one to social services after Aiden tells her to drown him in the bathtub. There is a good bathroom scene with nice water effects, and another where Samara/Aiden forces a social worker to commit suicide, but on the other hand I keep thinking about the TV Screen/”Follow my voice” stuff stolen from Poltergiest, and then there’s the ending. Rachel allows herself to be pulled through the TV set into Samara’s well, after determining that Samara just wants a mommy, which frankly is way too close to the ending of Dark Water to be a coincidence. But she doesn’t even go through with it, and we’re fed another yawn-inducing escape-from-the-well scene, proving to everyone that Nakata and company have drained this particular well dry. At this point they’re just throwing things at the wall, hoping something will stick. “I’m not your fucking mommy!” Rachel yells. Samara should count her lucky stars for that.

- Bill Gordon

Ring two
Poseur. I invented Goth.

Ringu Anthology of Terror (Rasen/Ringu/Ringu 2/Ringu 0)Ringu 2The Ring Two (Unrated Widescreen Edition)The Ring (Widescreen Edition)Ringu

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