"The Ring Two," "The Jacket": Some Thoughts
What The Ring boasted in mood, atmosphere, pacing, characterization, layers of complexity and legitimate spookiness, its successor tries to make up for in ... um ... well ... rampaging deer.
In other words, The Ring Two is a failure. And that's a particular letdown, considering that Hollywood tapped Hideo Nakata for it, the Japanese director whose 1998 horror film, Ringu, was the original source material for The Ring.
Naomi Watts reprises her role as Rachel, the dogged newspaper reporter (if you haven't seen the first Ring from 2002, incidentally, forget trying to make sense of anything that goes on in this sequel). She and her preternaturally mature son, Aidan (David Dorfman) have tried to leave behind the horrors of Samara's home videos by moving to a small town in Oregon. But it's not that easy, and so it isn't long before the appearance of our favorite ghost in desperate need of a haircut.
Unless a movie is packaged to be camp, it can handle only a couple of absurdities before things turn laughable. Ring Two asks its audience to swallow an awful lot of gristle. After a local teenager dies under suspicious circumstances, Rachel has no problem sauntering into an ambulance, where she subsequently unzips the body bag to inspect the corpse. Nor does it prove to be a challenge for her to sneak into the crime scene and retrieve a videotape still in the VCR (lucky break for Samara that evidently no one in the Pacific Northwest has made the switch to DVD players).
There are some amusing bits, but they don't really gel into anything cohesive. Sissy Spacek makes an interesting cameo as Samara's biological mother; it's a hoot to see Spacek, who set the standard for creepy kids back in 1976 with Carrie, more or less riffing on Piper Laurie's role in that earlier movie as Carrie's crazed momma. We know Spacek's character here is crazy because she collects huge piles of newspapers, which -- according to Hollywood -- is a tell-tale sign of mental illness (i.e. A Beautiful Mind).
Most annoying of all is how The Ring Two cheats by revising the entire backstory of its progenitor. The first Ring centered on the conceit that Samara, a creature of pure evil, was something of an anomaly to the natural order of the universe. In that film, Samara's mother had suffered miscarriage after miscarriage before finally giving birth; Samara's very existence, it seemed, was an affront to nature.
But you can forget all that. Without wanting to give too much away (am I thoughtful or what?), that whole notion is turned on its head in Ring Two. Evidently, sequels are easy to crank out when screenwriters aren't tied to pesky matters of the logic and previously established narratives.
Mick LaSalle offers an on-target review in The San Francisco Chronicle.
Much better creepy fare is had in The Jacket. It's a lot of gibberish about time travel, mad doctors in insane asylums and an assortment of red herrings, but it's well-crafted and generally accomplishes what it sets out to do. Hell, The Jacket is certainly watchable, anyway. Then again, after The Ring Two, C-SPAN 2 could seem like a psychedelic trip.