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Japanese director Hideo Nakata practically reinvented the staple horror movie with his now classic Ring trilogy, the success of which made a Hollywood remake a foregone conclusion. Thankfully, although not as good as the original, it was not as bad as some remakes can be, sticking quite closely to the material and succeeding largely thanks to the choice of Naomi Watts as the lead character. The original Japanese Ring 2 picked up where the first film finished off, but shifted the focus to follow a completely different central character—and adopted many concepts that would clearly not work if directly remade. So what we have here is The Ring Two , a new Hollywood sequel that simply cannot remain as faithful to its Japanese counterpart, something which was integral to the success of the first remake. Can it still be just as good?

Ring Two, The
If you haven’t seen the original Japanese Ring trilogy then that should be your first port of call, but if you’ve somehow still managed to see the Ring remake then—although you’re jumping the gun a little—this film will still make sense. If this is your first Ring experience then it is going to be tough work but I’ll try and recap. First up, the Ring itself is all about a fuzzy old videotape that depicts seemingly nonsensical fractured images and is actually the legacy of a young girl with mysterious powers who was tortured, abused and left to die at the bottom of a well. After watching the tape, you receive a phone call telling you that you will die in seven days (the length of time it took for the young girl to die in the well). That is the curse of the Ring.

In the first movie, Rachel was an investigative journalist who managed to get a copy of this tape after it was linked to some strangely mutilated bodies which were found in mysterious circumstances. Stupidly, she watches it—even passing it on to her ex-boyfriend to sit through—seemingly oblivious to the potentially lethal consequences. When her ex dies horribly and painfully, but she herself survives the seven days, she realises that you have to show the tape to somebody else in order to pass the curse on and avoid being killed yourself. Thinking everything is ok now, or at least as ok as it can be, she is horrified to find out that her curious son has watched the damn thing and the whole movie ends with her having to find somebody else to pass the curse onto on her son’s behalf.

The original production had a huge cut made to extract a character played by The Bourne Identity’s Chris Cooper. The movie was supposed to end with his character being subjected to the movie in order to save the son—him being so despicable that you forgive Rachel for making such a decision. The sequel appears to assume this to have taken place in the interim period but we also have one other item to bridge the gap—a short film called Rings which tells the story of the individuals who we come across in this sequel. That should be your second port of call, because the sequel picks up where that short left off, showing how Rachel and her son get drawn back into the horrible world of the Ring after a new victim is discovered.

Ring Two, The
Pretty soon they find themselves on the run from supernatural forces instigated by the cursed girl from the video—Samara—who seems determined to destroy Rachel and her son once again. When her son becomes increasingly disturbed by the curse, attracting the interest of several angry deer and receiving personal visits from Samara herself, Rachel tries to do everything in her power to save him. Along the way they suck in an unsuspecting third party—a hapless co-worker of Rachel’s—who helps them, oblivious to the danger he himself is in but increasingly suspicious of Rachel’s behaviour.

As I suspected, this remake bares little resemblance to the original Japanese Ring 2. Originally the kid had some kind of special powers inherited from his father (the ex-boyfriend) but since they did not keep that aspect of the story line intact, it was impossible to bring it into play here. Instead they chose to still make the boy strange—but inexplicably so—and that is a crucial part of the story that does not quite make sense. Well, that and the choice of child actor. I’m sorry but the kid who plays Aidan, David Dorfman, is so damn weird that you can’t help but feel the simplest thing to do would be to lock him up. Aside from looking like Nick Nack from James Bond’s The Man with the Golden Gun—with a head far to big for his body—he talks like an adult (calling his mother Rachel), dresses like an adult (formal shirts and suit trousers etc.) and behaves like an adult. He is just not normal. It is difficult to understand why Rachel did not address these traits in her own son long before Samara appeared on the scene.

Aside from that it’s business as normal, with Naomi Watts on good form reprising her role as Rachel and Simon Baker providing nominal back-up as the concerned co-worker, Max. There is also a surprise cameo for Sissy Spacek in a role that I will not go into any detail over. The result is almost like watching an extended version of the Ring, as if the first film just had not finished, and in that respect it is actually quite good. I liked the way they developed Rachel’s character—making her more of a suspect with regard to the condition of her son than before—and the way the very personal battle with Samara is retained from the Japanese story. The score is spot on, the effects are quite good (although the angry CG Bambis were a little unnecessary) and the cinematography captures all the right angles—the result being that you feel generally uneasy throughout as to what is going to happen.

Ring Two, The
However, there’s no doubt that this sequel is inferior, not only to the first remake but also to its Japanese counterpart. They appear to have tried to make the plot so simple that, at times, it just does not make any sense—with Rachel herself having to, more often than not, explain to the audience just what is going on. Unfortunately this has the consequential effect of a loss of depth to the plot, something unforgivable considering the quality of the source material. However, despite all this, and mainly thanks to retaining the powerful Naomi Watts and enlisting the talents of the original Japanese director Hideo Nakata to direct this, the result is still very entertaining. So close your curtains, turn the lights off, and sit back for another Ring nightmare.

The Ring Two is presented in the same 1.85:1 aspect ratio of the first movie, here being given a solid, anamorphically enhanced widescreen transfer. The detail is generally excellent, with no noticeable softness and no grain. The colour palette has that same clinical blue-green hue that worked so well before, the colours accurately represented throughout. Black levels are good, with solid, deep shadows for Samara to rise from. It is a fantastic transfer with simply no print damage and little that I can fault it for.

The main audio track is a solid English Dolby Digital 5.1 effort. Although not wildly powerful, it does the job perfectly well, presenting the vocals clearly from the frontal array. The score is cleverly intrusive at all the right moments, remaining silent or just brooding at other time but giving the surrounds plenty to do—albeit with a frontal bias. Effects-wise you came to the right place, with the video itself providing plenty of fuel to scare you with. It is a solid presentation with, largely unexceptional but still housing some outstanding moments—particularly towards the end.

Ring Two, The
First up there is the short movie, Rings, which goes some way towards bridging the gap between the two films. It was previously available on the special edition re-release of the first movie, but is quite a welcome addition here for those who didn’t feel the need to upgrade. It is well worth watching before tackling the sequel because it sets it up nicely, telling the story of a foolish cult-like group of friends who dare one another to last the longest after watching the fateful tape, documenting their days and strange experiences along the way. It is an oddly captivating Blair Witch-style short film that makes for very interesting and compelling viewing.

The ‘Imagination in Focus’ featurette hardly deserves a mention, running at little over two minutes in length and mainly featuring clips from the movie itself, basically making it an enhanced theatrical trailer. Sure we get brief clips of behind the scenes stuff and mere sound bites of praise from the cast and crew when describing the director, but there is nothing here worth really bothering with. No more substantial is the ‘Samara: From Eye to Icon’ featurette, again just a couple of minutes’ long and—worse still—featuring some of the same damn footage from the first featurette. How lame is that? Anyway here we get sound bites regarding Samara but, again, little of value. By now I’m getting bored of two-minute enhanced trailers, so I’m grateful that ‘The Haunting of The Ring Two’ is the final of these ludicrously short purported featurettes. Here we at least get some nice anecdotes of mysterious incidents on the set, including an interesting flood tale, but it is still almost not worth bothering with because it is over before you can even get into it.

Thankfully the ‘HBO First Look: Making of The Ring Two’ is a slightly more substantial thirteen minutes in length—although unfortunately it does still boast far too much final film footage. HBO First Looks are strange because they basically pitch the story in more detail than I would ever go into in a review, giving away too much to risk watching prior to seeing the movie, but not telling you a great deal that new if you have already seen it. This is no different but it does have several nice interview clips from all of the major cast and crew that might sustain your interest and at least it’s a little meatier than those two-minute jobs.

There are also several deleted and alternate scenes compiled in a ten-minute montage (not unlike the ‘Don’t Watch Now’ montage on the Ring DVD release). Annoyingly, most of them feature that irritating child behaving even more strangely so I can see instantly why they were stripped. The extra Naomi Watts stuff, though, is always worth a look despite most of it being unnecessary in terms of story and pacing.

Finally we get a couple of previews oddly played together as a trailer reel. They are the interesting new Wes Craven film, Red Eye coupled with the The Ring Two itself.

Ring Two, The
As is often the case with sequels—and probably even more so with sequels to remakes (or remakes of sequels, depending how you look at it) The Ring Two turns out to be a slightly disappointing, inferior effort to what has gone before. But it is still a better remake sequel than most. Watching Naomi Watts scream her way through another jumpy plot is perfectly entertaining and if you liked the ‘original’ film, then you are more than likely going to enjoy this. Given the quality of the video and audio and the wealth of often disappointingly short but still quite interesting extras, this is an edition worth picking up. For those of you with doubts, it is still definitely good for a rental.