From Ign.com’The Ring Two’ Ign.com Review (sarah michelle gellar mention)
By Todd Gilchrist
Thursday 17 March 2005, by Webmaster
Review: Creepy, suspenseful, and geniunely scary.
March 17, 2005 - Horror movies, even Hollywood ones, are no longer the exclusive qualitative domain of American auteurs. The Ring was inspired by Hideo Nakata’s 1998 Japanese version, and went on to great commercial success with Gore Verbinski at the helm; subsequently, Takashi Shimizu’s remake of his own Ju-on made a mint as the Sarah Michelle Gellar vehicle The Grudge.
But until the release of The Ring Two, the two disparate sensibilities sharing screen time in these pictures - namely, Asian eccentricity and Tinseltown star wattage - have never effectively meshed. Filmmaker Nakata, collaborating for the first time with Ring star Naomi Watts, makes a captivating chiller that tugs at the heartstrings as much as it does the hairs on the back of your neck; working from a script by Ehren Kruger that translates the impenetrable logic of Japanese horror for international audiences, the pair render a sequel that not only matches but exceeds the horrific power of its predecessor.
The first film’s few failings were largely conceptual; specifically, the prospect of a killer videotape inspired little fear in the hearts of a DVD-consuming public. Fortunately, Verbinski racheted up the suspense and built those implausibilities upon one another so masterfully that even the most fearless viewers were diving behind their seats. Meanwhile, Kruger’s script deftly avoided revealing the prized ’rules’ the monster abides by - those guidelines that keep us safe and warm in our seats (such as where she can and can’t go, how she can be stopped, etc.) - and showed a glimpse of evil in its purest, most unfettered and most unstoppable form. All of which is why the second film, by all rights, should be an abject failure; after all, what’s the point of fighting a monster if there’s no way to kill it for good?
Miraculously, Nakata finds a perfect balance between the American and Asian interpretations of his work, and creates a story that’s quite simply stunning in its brilliance. For example, who would have thought that David Dorfman, the kid from the first film, could possibly be any creepier than he’d already proved himself? Nakata, evidently; he not only allows Dorfman more of those moments of preternatural maturity (he calls his Mom ’Rachel’), but adds a fuller range of dialogue to the kid’s plate, effectively making him the most terrifying thing I’ve seen on film this year (hearing him say ’I love you’ was especially frightening).
Further to that end, Nakata enlists Sissy Spacek to play Samara’s institutionalized mother, which ranks as one of the most inspired casting choices in horror movie history; who else but Carrie herself could portray the nutjob who cast out her daughter and later indirectly led generations of other mommies to attempt infanticide? But rather than dwelling on these potential instances of stunt casting, the director keeps the drama on a short leash, and lets cheap opportunities for suspense pass by in favor of more satisfying blowouts.
The film’s visuals are ambitious without becoming overly indulgent; the camera’s omniscient eye captures expository speeches and elevates them to operatic monologues, then explores centerpiece moments (such as Rachel’s confrontation with Samara in a bathtub) with such restraint that the images become indelible as quickly as they appear on screen. Water flows upward from the tap, spirals across the ceiling and engulfs poor, frazzled Aidan; as Rachel attempts to rescue him, it comes crashing down around her, and we are jarred by the physicality of the sequence without requiring further explanation.
That said, however, the film does occasionally run aground of its own ambition. Watts hardly evokes the kind of maternal protectiveness that’s necessary to create a believable bond between parent and child, and it’s easy to believe she might simply be going crazy by the time she’s accused of abusing Aidan; further, she (or perhaps director Nakata) allows the child too much leverage to explore his own weirdness, and occasionally fails to create a believable link between the two, particularly when they’re still in the throes of ’normal’ mother-son interactions.
The essence of Japanese horror, or so it seems, is the design of a creature, an entity, or a force that functions under no precepts and cannot be stopped; these are all reasons why The Grudge failed on all levels for me. The Ring Two initially threatens to follow in this inestimable tradition, recycling the idea of the videotape for a few facile scares at the beginning of the film. But Nakata knows better than to simply rehash old glories, no matter how well they may have worked; by building an emotional core beneath the viscera of the horror, he draws in the audience and gives them a palpable connection to the choices - deplorable or even insane though they might seem - that Watts’ character must make.
What Nakata accomplishes is not merely an extension of the influence of Asian horror on American filmmaking, but its creative fulfillment; this hybrid sensibility holds the promise of fertile new storytelling methods, and hopefully presages the evolution of more successful cross-cultural collaborations. But as the year’s first horror release genuinely deserving of audiences’ attention, it’s not just a successful sequel or an above-average trinket to be added to the cinematic treasure chest; it’s the real deal - the brass Ring, to put not too fine a point on it.