The Ring Two (2005)

The second American Ring movie brings the entire franchise up to seven movies now -- plus an innumerable plethora of movies inspired by, influenced by, or cashing in on the phenomenon. Gore Verbinski's 2002 remake of the original Japanese classic radically changed the horror genre as we knew it in the west, despite drastically altering and changing the Ring mythology. So it should be encouraging to see Hideo Nakata back at the helm. After all, he's the man who created the whole thing, mashing Koji Suzuki's novel into David Cronenberg's Videodrome to create the most influential horror movie -- and most terrifying movie villain -- of our lifetime. Sadly, something seems to have gotten lost in translation.

The Ring Two isn't supposed to be a remake of any of the other Ring movies; rather, it's an "original" sequel to the first American remake. Although it does include elements from both Ring 2 and Rasen, The Ring Two is actually much more indebted to another Japanese horror movie: Dark Water, also directed by Hideo Nakata. There's definitely a recurring theme here.

Basically, after the incidents of The Ring, Rachel (Naomi Watts) takes Aidan (David Dorfman) away; like any good horror movie family, they move out to the suburbs, far away from city life. Rachel takes up a job at a local newspaper, planning to spend more time with Aidan to make up for her crappy parenting job in The Ring. Most of this newfound mother-son closeness is expressed by over-use of the word "honey". As in, "Honey, are you okay? Did you have a nightmare, honey? Honey, you've smudged your creepy Eyeliner of Death all over your face and -- honey, could you please stop giving Mommy that Evil Death Glare?" Predictably, running away from the disembodied supernatural evil provides no escape whatsoever: high school kids are still watching the videotape and dying horribly, and, worse, Samara's taken a bit of a shine to Aidan.

Here's where Dark Water kicks in: Samara doesn't want Aidan, she wants to be Aidan. (Now, there's a coming-of-age movie I'd like to see -- (s)he'd have issues of epic proportions, to put it mildly.) Her old tricks exhausted in the first movie, Samara takes her cue from Mitsuko and decides mommy-stealing is the new astral projection all the cool dead kids are down with. She wants a mother, and because Rachel tracked down her body in the first one, she figures Rachel must love her and want to be her mommy. Right? Aidan's personal hygiene suffers as he starts to repel water, and lots of water-related spookiness ensues, including houses flooding, Aidan contracting hypothermia and killing all his goldfish, and lots of baths and bathrooms before anyone gets anywhere near the well. There's a rather confused encounter with Samara's real mother in a mental institution -- a rather criminal under-usage of horror veteran Sissy Spacek -- and lots of weird, nonsensical flashback stuff to contend with here; the movie seems to want to go in about five different directions at once and ends up going nowhere.

Archive footage lets Daveigh Chase makes a couple of guest appearances as the face of Samara -- most notably when Aidan goes all Myspace and starts taking photographs in a bathroom -- but David Dorfman by far takes the cake for the creepiest incarnation of Samara. The boy is terrifying. But Samara isn't just evil this time around: Nakata increases the sympathy factor by continually reminding us that Samara's just an abandoned child who never had a chance at life. Even with Naomi Watts pulling her best frightened faces, it's difficult to be scared of a kid who just wants to watch television and eat peanut butter and jam sandwiches.

In a lot of ways, horror movies are like sex. Without the right foreplay, there's just no point, and there's a multitude of things that can go wrong. Premature ejaculation (hi, The Grudge) or erectile dysfunction (Hide and Seek, anyone?) can ruin the mood; in the case of The Ring Two, it's like having last-time sex with someone you're about to break up with. It's been a long relationship, and at the beginning there was plenty of promise and thrills, but now, much as I try to love you, you just won't let me. Let's try to walk away with some dignity now, shall we?

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