227 – The Ring Two

The sequel to 2002’s The Ring, itself a remake of the Japanese film Ringu, is pretty well done, sacrificing only some logical consistency for the sake of shiver-inducing atmosphere, solid and believable acting, and an underlying sense of dread, if not despair.

The movie picks up a few months after the events in the original, with Rachel (Naomi Watts) toting her young son Aidan (David Dorfman) from Seattle to Astoria, a small town in Oregon, hoping to Start Over as so many horror-movie survivors before her have attempted. Naturally, the big bad tape that caused so much trouble the first time around follows her up there, as she fortuitously discovers while in the employ of the local newspaper.

The Ring Two was directed by Hideo Nakata, who directed the Japanese original (and its own sequel), and under his direction the movie has only two speeds – deadeningly slow, whereupon the viewer feels as apprehensive as the movie’s heroine, and screamingly, bracingly quick. This pacing is a huge asset to what’s otherwise a slightly better-than-mediocre film. A good recent comparable film is Skeleton Key, which also features a smart, sexy young blonde heroine (Kate Hudson), although there’s no underlying theme of child endangerment.

Watts is fantastic, but the true shining light of the film is Dorfman, who at twelve years old appears to have all the poise and none of the hubris of most adult actors. He and Watts interact very well together; that they are mother and son is eminently believable, and their chemistry lent plenty of gravitas to the movie. The real question is whether Dorfman can successfully make the transition into adult roles, but luckily that decision is still a few years off.

Still, despite the fine work turned in by Watts and Dorfman (and, to a lesser extent, Sissy Spacek), there were enough “What the heck?” moments to give one pause. Most of them are integral to the plot, so I won’t discuss them here, but general one sticks out: Even though Rachel states over and over that everything she does is for her son, she makes some questionable mothering decisions. There are also steps she takes that cause one to wonder why she hadn’t taken them earlier in the film, when it would make more sense to.

Even so, the movie never seems to deal in horror cliches, such as various unnecessary characters going into dark basements or attics. It also doesn’t merely replay the events of the original film, a copout many horror sequels seem to use (or, in the case of the worst of the lot, a mere rethinking of ways for youngsters to die). Rachel and Aidan are flawed, but with depth; Rachel in particular is well developed because she’s able to convey the sense of protecting her child, even to the point of considering the ultimate sacrifice to save his skin.

I look forward to seeing more Hideo Nakata movies – he appears to have three coming out next year.

The Ring Two: **1/2


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