The Ring Two

(2005) ** Pg-13
107 min. DreamWorks. Cast: Naomi Watts, David Dorfman, Elizabeth Perkins, Sissy Spacek, Gary Cole.

I remember whole minutes of fun I had as a kid, pressing the "demo" button on my toy Casio and pretending to play it as the automated tune coursed out of tinny speakers. Watching The Ring 2: Back to the Well, I had to wonder, does the popular Final Draft screenwriting software have the same feature?

Ehren Kruger's script is credited as based on Kôji Suzuki's novel The Ring and the movie The Ring (by which they mean Ringu, director Hideo Nakata's 1998 film). So here again are the now iconographic images from 2002's The Ring: the rocky well; the ghostly goth girl, Samara, fixing the fisheye from behind black locks; a burning tree; leaky plumbing; and a "When Animals Attack" demonstration.

Though Gore Verbinski (Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl) directed the previous American Ring, Nakata seizes the reins this time, to remake (only sort of) his 1999 Ringu 2. Confused? You should try to make sense of Kruger's Ring Two script...or not. A sketchy horror plot slips from episode to episode with no particular momentum. As far as I can tell, Kruger made a list of scares, and Nakata ticked them off. Nary a whit of logical consideration intrudes.

After opening moodily on troubled waters, Nakata cruises into a living room where two teens (Ryan Merriman and Emily Van Camp) consider the haunted videotape from The Ring. When all heck breaks loose (it is, after all, a PG-13 movie), we learn that stalker wraith Samara (Kelly Stables, replacing Daveigh Chase) has followed Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts) and her creepy son Aidan (David Dorfman) from Seattle to Astoria, Oregon. "We didn't do anything wrong," Rachel insists. "We did what anyone would do: we started over."

When reporter Rachel gets hip to the teen crime scene, she has about an hour and a half worth of freaking out to do. Possession is nine-tenths of the law in horror movies, and apparently Samara has targeted wee Aidan. Simultaneously protecting and suspecting her son, Rachel finds herself between a rock and a hard place, and eventually in a rocky hard place: the well in which Samara once drowned.

Elizabeth Perkins, Gary Cole, and Sissy Spacek put in a day's work each, though by the time they make impressions, they're gone. Watts and Dorfman are sturdy. Some decent scenes and good photography help. But what, in God's name, is the point of this slow and overly familiar rehash? The half-hearted suggestion that perhaps Rachel is just cracked is reserved for the supporting characters; the audience knows better.

Kruger builds the whole movie to the Sigourney Weaver-esque punchline "I'm not your fucking mommy!" Peering into her wishing well, Watts delivers the line with the conviction of a woman who's saying one thing and wishful-thinking another: "I'm not your star for hire!"

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