Ring Two (2005)
Cast: Naomi Watts. Simon Watts, David Dorfman, Sissy Spacek, Elizabeth Perkins
Director: Hideo Nakata
Nutshell: Contrived to the extreme – overly stylized, staged nonsensical gibberish
Horror films have traditionally lurched from one successful sub-genre to the other with a film every few years capturing the imagination with some freshness which is then mimicked by a thousand imitators each with diminishing results until the next fad sub-genre comes along. In the 30’s we had the age of classic monsters typified by the Universal films featuring Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Wolfman and The Invisible Man followed a short while later by The Creature from the Black Lagoon. Then the spin-offs, sequels and imitators ended with comic parody and horror films had to find a new “monster” to terrify audiences into parting with their money.
The 50’s provided the age of dawn of the age of atomic bombs and the spectre of imminent holocausts. The new monster for horror films through the 50’s was the mutated creature who is created from mankind’s own follies and proceeds to threaten civilization as we know it. Another 50’s monster in Hollywood was Communism and a significant number of horror movie monsters from the ear were thinly veiled symbols of communist totalitarianism. The 60’s, that most fascinating of decades was dominated by the horrors of the Vietnam war and most horror films couldn’t hope to match up to the horrors dished up during that war.
Horror films in the 60’s had been shocked from their creature feature complacency in 1959 when Alfred Hitchcock traumatized audiences with his masterful study of a serial killer in the groundbreaking Psycho. Vietnam took the front seat and the horrors on screen were dwarfed by the horrors being gradually reported from the East. However there was one film that exploded onto the scene at the fag end of the decade……..timed perfectly to coincide with the death of the Love Generation, George A Romero’s Night of the Living Dead turned the genre on its head. First up, it wasn’t a Hollywood produced film at all and secondly it was shot on a nothing budget in the outskirts of Pennsylvania with no-name actors and, shock horror, the hero was a black man. This relentlessly grim went for the jugular like none other had before it and offered audiences only a glimmer of hope and salvation before mercilessly ripping it away with a nihilism that mirrored the ugliness of the world around it perfectly. Night of the Living Dead might seem tame by today’s standards but it was a film that reinvented horror films, taking them from the realm of fable and fantasy and bringing them with horrendous realism right into every living room of every suburban home.
The 70’s saw horror films with idyllic homely settings being obliterated from evil that hatches from within. The Exorcist featured a beautiful cherubic nine year old turn into a bile-spewing, Michael Jackson look alike with a rasping voice like that of the worst teenage heavy metal band singer. That was followed by The melodramatic but effective The Omen which featured a masterful advertising campaign for starters that lead to frenzied levels of anticipation by the time the films reached theatres. The film was an old fashioned yarn but had a decidedly nasty edge and provided cinema with (arguably) the first ever film that featured “creative” death scenes (elaborately staged death scenes designed for maximum visual and visceral impact).
The 80’s was the age of the masked knife or axe wielding psycho killer with the premise often set “15 years ago” followed by a prank on some geek by a group of college cool kids that goes horribly wrong….15 years later one by one the group of college tormenters start to vanish into thin air leaving behind a gruesome trail of blood. The 80’s also saw the arrival of the “dreamworld” merging with the “real” world with A Nightmare on Elm Street pulling out all the stops and confounding audiences who had become jaded with one masked killer after the other going through the same old routine. Elm Street provided a much needed shot in the arm for the genre and provided some respite from the increasingly dull masked killer thing, but not for long.
The 90’s were a pretty dreadful time for horror flicks with hardly a single title coming to mind. We had a speight of overly talky teen-angst horror films in Scream and its sequels as well as I Know What You Did Last Summer and its sequel….none of them particularly memorable nor particularly groundbreaking in any way. Then just when it looked as though horror had permanently lost its mojo, along came salvation from the east in the form of a film called Ringu from Japan . The film had a fable-like plot involving a video tape that kills those who watch it……….the film turned into a huge success in Japan and then started to make waves on the festival circuit in Europe especially the UK where audiences reacted very positively and the film became a considerable hit on the arthouse circuit.
The snazzy suits at Dreamworks studios got wind of the films success and snapped up the movies rights and got into production with a guy named Gore Verbinski who was by no means a Hollywood hot shot but who had shown considerable potential with Mousehunt but had also recently directed the putrid Mexican with Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts.
The American version of Ringu turned into a massive success even out-grossing the original oh home turf; Japan. The floodgates were opened up and eager beaver Hollywood studio whiz kids pulled out their cheque books and headed for the east on a signing spree that has seen them snap up the Ju-on The Grudge series, the remaining Rings, Pulse, Phone, A Tale of Two Sisters, Kairo, Dark Water and the list goes on. The Americanized version of Ju-on also turned into an unexpected box office bonanza and Hollywood execs found a new way of making a quick easy buck, or so it seems. However with the latest batch of adaptations the crowds at the box office have dwindled and all of a sudden what appeared fresh and exciting now appears increasingly repetitive to the point of self parody.
The Ring sequel was always going to be a tricky prospect. The original Ring sequel had been directed by the man who made the classic original film but with his second Japanese sequel the films plot took off into areas that would seem totally indigestible to American audiences. However the Japanese sequel made up for its loopy swimming pool climactic scene with several telling moments of eerie terror that match the first movie for sheer intensity. The question remained, how would this loopy plot line involving the electronic transferring of angry spirits and such mumbo jumbo be presented for western audiences who would absolutely reject the mumbo jumbo jive. So Dreamworks decided to have an entirely fresh script written up for the sequel but soon the production started coming undone at the seams and this is when the original director was shown the door and Hideo Nakata was brought on board to direct just as Shimizu Takashi had been drafted in to work on the US version of The Grudge. So it seemed that things were back on track once again with Nakata happy to direct from the fresh American written script.
The film was released back in April earlier in the year and after a whopping start at the Box Office, found crowds dwindling as negative word-of-mouth kicked in. So what was the American Ring Sequal like? Well, lets put it this way…The Grudge remake was already one too many! This film is contrived to breaking point with one ridiculous though dramatically and elaborately staged scare set piece following another without any substance or semblance of a discernable plot to hold it together. It goes something like this……Distraught Naomi Watts has managed to get the dreadful and dreadfully persistent evil spirit devil-girl Samara off her back and moved across the US to take up residence in some Hicksville town far far away from her bad memories. She is accompanied by her typically precocious and insightful bright but troubled kid who signals the spiralling of horrible events by starting to call his mother Mommy rather than Rachel as he used to……..she did ask him to though. Then after he takes to calling his mother Mommy, things start to go from bad to worse and the trademark Ring deaths start to occur in their new vicinity.
Samara is back and is hell bent on tormenting Watts and using her child as a gateway to the real world…………..pretty pitiful laughable stuff really, but enlivened by steely eyed lady doctors who are mesmerized into injecting themselves with lethal syringes……..a pack of deer that suddenly decide to show the world that Bambi really was fantasy by launching a murderous, even suicidal attack on Watts and son totally out of the blue. Then of course there is the prerequisite dripping water scene and here it is a quite a showstopper. All this effort to stage this contrived creepiness just doesn’t convince and the whole exercise comes across as a nasty whiff of escaped flatulence…wallowing in a camouflage of nonsensical imagery with a totally vacuous interior.
Poor Naomi Watts spends the film looking sorry for signing the sequel clause and ending up in a film as dumb as this. The child does his precocious creepy child thing with tedious aplomb. The script is the real killer……..and it comes as no surprise that its author Ehren Krugen (no relative of Freddy) was utterly reluctant to speak about his brilliant new script before the films release…all he said to the press was “you’ll have to wait and see”. Well we waited and we watched and we have subsequently decided that we would rather not have any more American quick fix remakes of ghostly Japanese horror hits featuring well or closet dwelling women with bad hairstyles and a shabby dress sense for a good few years to come thank you very much. Talk about torturing the goose that laid the golden egg to death, but then what’s new?