In 2002’s The Ring, Naomi Watts played an unfeeling, distracted mother and Daveigh Chase played a demonic ghost child who wanted to make everyone pay for her suffering.
In The Ring Two, Watts reprises her role as Rachel Keller differently, as an inexplicably attentive mother, agitated to the point of stroking her son’s hair with fervid, goody-goody devotion.
Chase only appears in archive footage in the sequel, but her character, the ghost of the murdered child Samara (played in this film by Kelly Stables) has also changed. And now instead of a slimy disgusting murderous ghost who climbs though televisions to mete out random revenge on the world that didn’t save her, she’s a slimy disgusting needy ghost who just wants a mommy to love her.
These drastic character changes dilute what was a dense and terrifying story; a cold, self-absorbed reporter goes head to head with a maniacally cruel and lethal apparition. We had connected with Rachel in her disconnected and lonely world, and we had been effectively coaxed into fearing the ferocious well-dwelling corpse of Samara. Samara, having developed into a confused little ghost, has erased the terror I once harbored for her.
Six months after Rachel discovered the secrets of a video tape that results in the death of anyone who watches it, she moves her son Aidan (David Dorfman) to a tiny coastal town in Oregon to make a fresh start.
The move proves ineffective, as Rachel finds an unmarked tape at the scene of a gruesome death and, accompanied by Hitchockian stabs of violin, the cycle of terror begins again. Samara, the little girl from the tape, is back, but she’s not interested in revenge; she wants to inhabit the body of Aidan and enjoy domestic suburban pleasantries and a loving mother.
As Aidan lays in the hospital, his body temperature dipping to ghostly temperatures and his eyes glazing over with impending possession, Rachel leans in and whispers into his ear, “You can’t have him, Samara. You’re going back to where you came from.”
Chilling dialogue to be sure, but then why does Rachel continually apologize to this ghost for having to send her back? Are we supposed to feel sorry for Samara, or are we supposed to loathe her?
The movie reaches its psychotic crescendo when Rachel considers the advice of a mental hospital patient (played by Sissy Spacek), who suggests she murder her own child.
And in this cluster of scenes, director Hideo Nakata (who directed the original Japanese film Ringu, upon which The Ring was based) nearly convinces that there is a good and a perfectly sound reason to kill your own kid. And he has a terrifying way of blurring the line between murderous psychosis and rational thought.
Then there are the crazy deer, which show up in the middle of the road and try to beat the tar out of Rachel’s car. Later, we see bunches of deer antlers tied up in the basement of Samara’s home, and it looks like there might be some sort of answer as to what the deer were doing. It looked like it might have been a clue.
No such luck. The deer are never alluded to again, and, just as we were left with questions about the crazy horses in The Ring, we’re left with questions about the crazy deer in The Ring Two.
And with questions about why the evil tape is no longer valid. And questions about why Samara and Rachel are not the same characters they used to be. And why don’t we ever really see what happens to the people Samara murders? And why are there images of burning trees everywhere? And the list of questions goes on and on and on.
Rated PG-13, for violence/terror, disturbing images, thematic elements and some language.
Running time: 1 hour, 47 minutes