AKA: Ringu 2
Director: Hideo Nakata
Writer: Hiroshi Takahashi, Koji Suzuki
Cast: Daisuke Ban, Kyoko Fukada, Kenjiro Ishimaru, Nanako Matsushima, Katsumi Muramatsu, Miki Nakatani
Running Time: 95 min.
Read this review ONLY if you have already seen Ring 2, if you have seen Ring and want to know more about the sequel before you see it (or decide whether or not to see it), OR if you don’t object to a few minor spoilers (in the second and third paragraphs AFTER this one, anyway). Though I have refrained from giving anything really major away here, I will NOT be held responsible for some reader blithely absorbing this review from start to finish and THEN saying “Damn you Numskull, you ruined Ring 2 for me! I’ll see you in HELLLLLLLL!!!!” Got it? Good.
Ring 2 is the second and more highly regarded film based on the novel “Spiral”, Koji Suzuki’s follow up to his 1991 publishing phenomenon, Ring. The other, Rasen (Spiral), was released back-to-back with the first Ring film and was directed by Joji Iida. Audiences preferred Hideo Nakata’s treatment of Suzuki’s writing, and he directed this other rendition of Spiral in an effort to duplicate (no pun intended…bad in-joke, I know…) his prior success. Did he? Nope. Sorry.
Ring 2 is a sequel in the truest sense, continuing and elaborating upon the story of its predecessor rather than simply rehashing it. Many of the original cast members reprise their roles, though the distribution of spotlight is now quite different. This time around (another bad pun…bloody hell), Ryuji’s assistant/younger girlfriend Mai, whose role in Ring was only marginal, takes center stage as the impetus for an in-depth investigation of the tragic life and even more tragic death (a revelation in the film’s first couple of minutes is perhaps its most horrifying moment) of the mysterious Sadako. Her curse now seems to be reaching out farther than ever before, with both Reiko Asakawa’s young son Yoichi and the teenage girl Masami (who was placed in a mental hospital following the first film’s opening scene) exhibiting unbridled psychic powers (“powers” being a somewhat less than apt term in Masami’s case) and other bizarre behavior, especially muteness (or at least an unwillingness to speak).
This may sound ridiculous, but Ring 2’s biggest downfall is its excess ambition. What made the first film so great was its relative simplicity. Here, too many characters get involved and too much explanation is attempted. Too much science, not enough fear. Horror is most effective when it’s intimate. For example (and for a good plug into the bargain), my favorite short story is The Willows by Algernon Blackwood, which an old friend of mine, who grew up on horror of every sort and was nicknamed “Anti-Christ” in high school, read with wide-eyed abandon on my recommendation and subsequently declared “creepy as hell.” Reason being: it has only two principal characters, in such dire circumstances that any hope of assistance or salvation is practically inconceivable. As you read its forty- or fifty-odd pages, the foremost thought in your mind is something along the lines of: “These guys are fucked.” In my opinion, that aura of hopelessness and isolation is what gave The Blair Witch Project such potential; unfortunately, that particular film drops the ball in a big way on account of its format (squabbling kids recording themselves doing, paradoxically, nothing AND everything when anyone with a thimbleful of common sense would turn the fucking cameras OFF and concentrate on getting back to civilization so they don’t have to wipe their asses with leaves anymore).
That sense of intimacy, that air of personal and immediate dread, is what is sorely lacking in much of Ring 2. It shows us that Sadako’s curse is, potentially, a much more widespread problem than first thought, and that, in and of itself, is a solid enough premise. But with the way that the story is presented, we, the viewers, just don’t give as much of a damn as we should. Gone is the urgency of Asakawa’s desperate search for long-lost secrets in the first film. Gone is the sympathy we felt for the protagonists the last time as the melodrama unfolds in a manner which misses, by a discouragingly large margin, the mark previously set (admittedly, a hard act to follow). Gone is…quite simply…the fun of it.
Hideo Nakata’s talent as a director is still readily apparent, and the basic concept of the series is still intriguing. The film is not bereft of spine-tingling moments, but those of the first one were better and more numerous. Ring 2 has a fair amount to offer those who loved Ring and crave more, more, MORE, but it isn’t required viewing. The first movie is the best in the trilogy (not counting Iida’s contribution, which I haven’t seen) and can stand on its own.
Numskull’s Rating: 6/10