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Though creepy, ‘The Ring Two’ falls flat

By Jenni Koehler

“The Ring Two”

DreamWorks Pictures, 2005

Directed by Hideo Nakata

Written by Ehren Kruger

Starring Naomi Watts, David Dorfman, Simon Baker, Sissy Spacek

Opened March 18, 2005

Rated PG-13, 107 minutes

Three stars out of four stars

Japanese horror-a distinctive style of scary movie that focuses more on story and character than on special effects and carnage-first debuted in major American cinema in 2002 with “The Ring.”

Now, thanks to Hideo Nakata, director of the original “Ringu,” it’s back.

“The Ring Two” follows “The Ring’s” characters on another chilling, almost supernatural adventure, in which Samara, the Americanized version of Japan’s creepiest villainess, Sadako, pops her head out of the well for one more horrific ride.

The story picks up six months after Samara was purged from our heroes’ lives at the end of the first film. Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts) and her son Aidan (David Dorfman) have moved from Seattle, Wash., to Astoria, Ore., with hopes of beginning anew-minus any creepy, long-haired demonic little girls.

However, via a suspiciously familiar crime scene in their once-happy little town-complete with a spooky unlabeled videotape-it becomes apparent to Rachel that Samara is back.

There aren’t many clues as to what Samara is after this time (surely it can’t be death and terror again) until Aidan becomes unexplainably hypothermic and undergoes bizarre behavioral changes. Just what kind of kid suddenly starts calling his mother “Mommy,” anyway?

Rachel deduces that all Samara really wants is a mommy to love her, and as a result of the events in the first film, Rachel herself has become a loving, devoted, role-modelesque mother for her child: exactly what Samara wants.

So pretty much, this crazy dead girl from the bottom of a well, who somehow has supernatural powers, has decided to take over Aidan’s body, to become him. This is obviously the best way to have the perfect mommy she’s always craved-or at least one who, with any luck, won’t throw her down a well.

However, Rachel has something to say about that (literally). She must now figure out how to rid her son’s body of this evil presence. This means returning to the Morgan farm (where Samara’s adopted parents raised her), paying a visit to Samara’s birth mother (played outstandingly by Sissy Spacek) and battling that wicked demon of a girl one last time.

Watts plays Keller flawlessly, skillfully conveying the complexity of her character, as well as adding a distinctive strength to the role. She genuinely has the audience on her side from the beginning, and easily keeps them there throughout the film.

Dorfman (Haley Joel Osment’s best protg thus far) is creepy as ever, and his transformation from the quiet, slightly haunted, precocious Aidan to the intense, malicious, eerily powerful Samara is enthralling.

In her first return to the horror genre since “Carrie” in 1973, Spacek carries with her an undeniably disturbing presence. As Samara’s not-completely-with-it birth mother, she answers some of the questions fans have been asking for years now, including where Samara came from and why she was adopted. Hints are given as to why Samara is so morbidly twisted, but Spacek’s main purpose is to provide Rachel with cryptic, moderately useful information and unsettle the audience even more.

The film’s special effects are excellent, but they can’t quite obliterate a few lingering questions about where certain premises came from. Not all American audience members know that in Japan deer are considered divine messengers that can sense evil-an important fact in the film.

Also, they must have forgotten to mention in the first film that Samara somehow acquired the ability to repel water when she spent all that time in the well. Time spent retching in water equals power to control it-that logically follows, right? Sort of.

These are the flaws that keep “The Ring Two” from becoming the solid film it had the potential to be. Though undeniably creepy, and thankfully character-based, the movie has a handful of logical fallacies that make it difficult for viewers to really immerse themselves in the world of “The Ring.”

The filmmakers maintain the suspenseful mood throughout the film, throwing in bits of action and macabre images only when necessary. The actors and effects help us to overlook significant plot holes and a few illogical twists, but in the end, “Ring Two” is a letdown. The eerie music, disturbing details and darkly unfolding plot lead us to believe that the film is building toward something huge, something unbelievably, bone-chillingly scary.

However, “Ring Two” fails to deliver any such mind-blowing fright. Instead, it leaves us with questions about how it all makes sense and what exactly the point of this second edition was.

“The Ring Two” provides a slower pace than most horror movies and a far creepier mood, but its lack of a substantial twist leads us to ultimate disappointment. If they ever release “The Ring Three” in the United States, they’re gonna have some serious questions to answer.

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