By Brian Rentschler
Short version: Sadly, this superfluous sequel follows the time-honored Hollywood tradition of being vastly inferior to its predecessor. It has a few genuine scares, but for the most part it's kind of boring.
I wanted to like this movie. I really did, but sadly, the mediocrity got in the way. And to be honest, it wasn't terrible; it was just okay. I wanted it to be great, like The Ring was great. I actually had my hopes up, mainly because Hideo Nakata, who directed the Ringu series on which this franchise was based, directed this one. I wanted to be scared, but The Ring and The Grudge were much scarier than this movie.
Before I go any farther, I want to clarify that to properly review this movie, I have to reveal some plot points from this movie's predecessor, The Ring. So if you haven't already seen The Ring, you should watch that first before you read this review. (It's a better movie anyway; trust me.) I won't reveal any crucial plot points from The Ring Two in this review, though. That policy hasn't changed.
Before I even saw this movie, the biggest question in my mind was whether a sequel to The Ring was truly necessary. It was genuinely scary, and it had an effective ending that resolved almost everything and kept Rachel Keller (played by Naomi Watts) and her son Aidan (played by David Dorfman) alive. So why make a sequel? Well, why does Hollywood ever make a sequel?
The story is set a few months after the events of the original movie. Now that everybody in upstate Washington is freaking out at anything that even looks like a VHS tape, Rachel decides her work there is done. She and Aidan move to Astoria, Oregon in the hopes of moving on with their lives. The problem is, almost immediately after they show up, a teenage boy turns up dead. It doesn't take Rachel long to figure out that there was a VHS tape involved. Before Rachel can even react to the realization that all the carnage in upstate Washington is about to repeat itself down in Oregon, she has a bigger problem to worry about. Her son Aidan is starting to act and look possessed. She quickly realizes that Samara, who caused all the trouble in the original movie, has not only stuck around, but she has taken over Aidan. To make matters worse, being taken over by Samara has some distinct disadvantages such as dropping his body temperature to 90 degrees (which is usually fatal) and making him act really weird sometimes. That causes Rachel's coworker (played by Simon Baker) and a psychiatrist at the hospital where Aidan is being treated (played by Elizabeth Perkins) to suspect child abuse. Will Rachel's son be taken away from her? Will she be able to figure out how to stop Samara again, now that Samara is manifesting herself in a different way? And how can she get Samara out of her son if she can't even visit him?
One problem with sequels is that in many cases, the director of the sequel is not the same person who directed the original. In this case, director Hideo Nakata's directing style is noticeably different from that of Gore Verbinski, who directed The Ring. That's always a big risk, because audiences come to expect a certain style and flow from the original movie. If they're not there in the sequel, it could backfire. While The Ring was scary and suspenseful, The Ring Two tends to move very slowly and methodically. There are a few genuinely scary scenes, but for the most part it's kind of boring.
The acting was decent overall. Naomi Watts does a good job, as always. David Dorfman, who plays Rachel's son Aidan, came across as dull and wooden at first, but then I had to remind myself that he had to play two different characters — the regular kid and the kid who was possessed by Samara. In that sense, I thought he did a very good job because I was never in doubt as to when something wacky was happening with him. There are cameos from Elizabeth Perkins, Sissy Spacek and Gary Cole. The cameos by Spacek and Perkins fit into the story quite well, but Cole's cameo was a pointless waste of his talents. Cole is one of my favorite actors; he deserved a better role than that. Yeeeaaahhh... so if you could just go ahead and sort of cast Gary Cole in better roles from now on... that would be great, m'kay?
Overall, I didn't find the movie terrible, but it certainly wasn't great. I wondered why it was even made in the first place. For one thing, it reminded me of those crappy television shows where a character dies, then next week they're back and the writers come up with some lame excuse for why they didn't die. I hate those kinds of storylines, but that's almost exactly what happened in this movie. If Samara can possess people, why didn't she just do that in the first film? Maybe the weather in Astoria was more conducive to such a thing... As for the possession storyline, my goodness, where have I seen that before? Maybe The Exorcist? Or how about something more recent, like Matrix Revolutions? Quite honestly, the whole movie felt stale and regurgitated. Every plot point, no matter how surprising it was meant to be, felt like I had already seen it before. In their mad rush to capitalize on hit movies, Hollywood needs to remember that some movies don't need sequels. They're good enough to stand on their own.
If you really enjoyed The Ring and you want to see this one for the sake of completeness, set your expectations appropriately low and you should be okay. Otherwise, don't bother.