Ring Two (The) AKA The Ring 2 (2005)
R2 - Japan - Asmik Ace
Review written by and copyright: Jari Kovalainen (19th August 2006).
The Film

Director Hideo Nakata is the man behind the original “Ringu (1998)”, the film which basically started a new era of Japanese horror and ghost stories. “Ringu” and similar films that followed became almost a phenomenon all around the world (not just Japan), and now many of them are being remade in the US (and some are coming or planned). Nakata has also directed the sequel “Ringu 2 (1999)” and the highly recommended “Dark Water AKA Honogurai mizu no soko kara (2002)” in Japan, before he did the same move as fellow Japanese director Takashi Shimizu, who did the original “Ju-on: The Grudge (2003)” in Japan, and then the US remake “The Grudge (2004)” also. So what we have here is “The Ring Two (2005)”, the US remake directed by Nakata himself. I personally have a lot of respect towards the original “Ringu”, which was indeed very creepy and an original film. I also liked the US remake of the first film (“The Ring (2002)” from Gore Verbinski), which at least showed that Hollywood doesn´t ruin every remake that comes to its path. I also have to admit that I´ve seen the original “Ringu 2” only several years back at a film festival, which I recall being a slightly disappointing effort, since it was in some ways too strange compared to the first one (I guess I'll have to see it again). The point basically is, that in this review I won´t do any comparison with “Ringu 2” and “The Ring Two”, and I pretty much watched the US remake on its own merits.

As many probably know, the story of the first “Ringu” and also the US remake tells about the cursed videotape, which will get you killed in 7 days, if you happen to be that unfortunate to watch it through. A black haired girl named Samara will crawl from the well in the TV, all the way to the victim´s living room, creating death that leaves the horrifying expression on their faces. “The Ring Two” is a direct sequel to the first US remake, but instead of it continuing the “cursed videotape & girl crawling from the TV” -pattern, it takes the story in another direction. The effective opening will be the bridge from the first film to the second one, when it involves two young people (the girl is played by Emily VanCamp from TV-series “Everwood") and the good old cursed videotape. After that we meet the familiar characters from the first film, Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts - recently in “King Kong (2005)”) and her son Aidan (David Dorfman), who have now moved from Seattle to the small town in Oregon named “Astoria”, where Rachel works as an editor to the local newspaper (“The Daily Astorian”). When Rachel hears about the incident that happened in the opening scenes, she realizes that the grim events she thought she left behind have followed her to Oregon also. She goes back to the scene of the death, finding and burning the videotape, but she already had a strange event in the ambulance with Samara herself, when Rachel went there to see how the victim looked like (to make her worst fears come true: horrible). Rachel begins to investigate Samara´s past again (she goes e.g. to the “Morgan ranch”), and this time it looks that Samara will actually want to “become” Rachel´s boy Aidan, and that she doesn´t need the videotape to show herself.

I have read a few reviews and thoughts about this film, and it seems that the general consensus is of dislike for the film, almost calling it “one of the worst disappointments ever made”. I guess I´m on the opposite side, since I - for the most part - liked the film. I´m not really sure what the main issues are that people don´t like in this film, but I´m sure the fact that it doesn´t follow the path of the first film and “cursed tape” scenario, and those weaker story developments at the end were the biggest reasons for these complaints. You could also say that the visual images of the film are hiding some parts of the weaker script, which is less spooky this time to some people (for me too). In any case, I did find “The Ring Two” entertaining and interesting, which kept my senses alert almost throughout the film (apart from certain scenes). I also liked the visual imagery and symbols in the film, and believe it or not, I also find “the deer sequence” original, even slightly effective (it was “too CGI” though, no question). There were also other visually nice executed scenes (“well” and “water from the roof” –sequences are the obvious ones). It was also curious to see how the relationship with mother and son was told in the film, but that aspect of the story fails as a whole, since it mainly only scratches the surface. Actors are pretty good, but the character of Max Rourke (Simon Baker), who owns the newspaper and later on the film is trying to help Rachel, leaves you pretty much cold. This is not necessarily the fault of the actor (Baker recently was in “Land of the Dead (2005)”), but his character just doesn´t work in the film. In a short supporting role, Sissy Spacek does a solid performance (“You let the dead get in..”).

It´s no secret that even when the story might be interesting and you've got some visually nice images, the screenplay itself doesn´t always work as it should. The film can´t keep up the pace through the whole movie, and when the “last part” of the film starts, something goes missing in the process (it just doesn´t “fit” in the world and mood of the earlier films). The fact also is, that the film is not as spooky and dark as the first film (both Japanese and US), and now it operates mainly more on the suspense level, rather than horror. The film still has its scary moments, and Nakata can create intense scenes, but that “real spookiness” is lacking from certain scenes. “The Ring Two” is no masterpiece, but those who can get past the fact that this is not going to continue in the same direction as the first one, will have a relatively good change to enjoy. To some degree, I understand why many people are disappointed with the direction that this film gives to the “Ring/Ringu”-saga, but I have seen plenty of worse films than “The Ring Two”.

Video

The disc includes an Anamorphic 1.85:1-transfer. With the film made in 2005 you could expect a pristine transfer, but unfortunately the transfer has some issues. It has clear line shimmering, which can be distracting at times, and some edge enhancement can be found. The transfer (at least in some scenes) looks too “processed” and “digital”. I noticed that similar issues have been reported of the R1 “Unrated”-release, so it could be that these come from the same source. It should be said though, that the colours on the film are intentionally in some ways limited, so don´t expect any overall vivid scenes with different colors. The film has a “dull” and darkish look, which suits the mood of the film just fine. The disc is “dual layer”, and bitrate is in a good level.

The disc runs 127:40 min (NTSC), being the “Unrated”-version of the film. I personally haven´t seen the “PG-13”-rated theatrical version, so I can´t really comment on the differences. From what I have read, those differences are not significant. There are 20 chapters.

Audio

Japanese -release includes the “exclusive” (as far as I know) English DTS 5.1 -track, along with English and Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 -tracks. Optional English and Japanese subtitles are also included. The film operates with suspense more than huge action scenes, but creepy directional sound effects and music cues are an essential part of these type of films, and DTS provides a solid and nearly flawless sound experience. There are a few scenes (like “the deer sequence”) where the aggressive DTS really get to shine, and the subwoofer gives nice support every now and then. There are no big differences with DTS and Dolby Digital, but you might find the DTS a bit more dynamic, at least with high-end equipment, but the difference is not huge. No complaints on the audio front; solid work.

Extras

Disc 1

Wisely, most of the extras are moved to “Disc 2” because of the DTS-track, and the first disc includes only trailers, and some are presented in 5.1:
-US teaser (1:33 min)
-US theatrical trailer (2:31 min)
-Japanese teaser (1:01 min)
-Japanese theatrical trailer (2:04 min)
-Alternate Japanese theatrical trailer (2:10 min)
-2 Japanese TV-spots (running back-to-back, 0:48 sec)
-2 alternate Japanese TV-spots (running back-to-back, 0:48 sec)
-2 alternate Japanese TV-spots (running back-to-back, 0:48 sec)

Disc 2

The second disc includes the core of the extras, which are more like “PR-material” than in-depth documentaries. They are still informative and enjoyable, all being in English (with optional Japanese subtitles). The “Menu” is all in Japanese, but still easy to navigate. Do note, that “Rings" -short film (approx. 16 min), which is included in some releases is absent, but is available separately by the same company (this short film tells how the boy at the opening scene got the tape in the first place).

- “HBO First Look: Making of The Ring” -featurette (13:01 min) tells generally about the production, with cast & crew interviews and “behind-the-scenes” material. Special make-up effects artist Rick Baker tells also about his work on the film. It´s also revealed that they first wanted to use the real deers in their scene, but then they found out that the deers had already “dropped” their antlers.

- “Faces of Fear - The Phenomenon” -featurette (6:12 min) tells about the “Ringu/Ring”-films, giving some background of the earlier films and the story.

- “Imagination in Focus” -featurette runs 2:13 minutes, and introduces the director Hideo Nakata.

- “Fear on Film - Special Effects” -featurette (5:44 min) tells about 3 special effects sequences: “The Well”, “The Deer”, and “The Water”.

- “Samara: From Eye to Icon” -featurette (5:48 min) focuses on Samara -character, and shows how they did her make-up for the film.

- “The Ring: The Power of Symbols” -featurette (5:20 min) tells about the different symbols used in the film, like mirrors, “the burning tree”, water, and deers (apparently Samata controls the animals in some strange way, so that was the main motivation of that scene).

- "Deleted/alternate scenes" -section runs 16:24 minutes, and includes 10 scenes. They are shown non-anamorphic, and with timecodes running on the black area of the screen.
Here´s a brief description of the scenes (avoiding spoilers):
1) In this longer sequence, Rachel and Aidan are choosing some furniture at the store. They´re being delivered and while they are back at home, their overly friendly neighbour pays them a visit. The scene also shows how Aidan falls asleep, and Rachel accidentally drops the remote of the TV, and there will some static (spooky). This actually explains better Rachel´s attitude towards the women in the “carnival scene”.
2) A scene at “The Daily Astorian”, where Rachel says that her co-worker doesn´t need to write about the rumours involving the “tape that kills”.
3) An alternate take on “the deer sequence”. One deer is looking at their car from the woods before the actual scene. The CGI-effects on the scene are apparently not finished, so there´s a head of the deer on a pole.
4) Rachel rushes to the house, wondering why her son is sick.
5) Rachel meets two boys from the neighbourhood outside her house.
6) Rachel talking with Max, who gives her the keys to his car.
7) Extended dialogue scene from the hospitals waiting room, where Max tells more about his past to Rachel.
8 ) Dr. Johnson talks with Max.
9) Rachel and Aidan on the couch, and Aidan is feeling sick.
10) Rachel and Aidan, and scary images on the TV-screen.

-“The Haunting of The Ring 2” -featurette (2:10 min) is the last short segment, and it tells about a few strange stories that happened during the production.

-One brief “Easter Egg” is also included: Highlight “The Haunting of The Ring 2” –featurette (last extra from the right side), and press “right” from your remote. “?” is highlighted. Press it, and you´ll get a short (1:09 min) -featurette, where the make-up of Samara is being done.

Overall

“The Ring Two” is harmless entertainment, which offers a few scares, some good visual images, and solid actors. It works on the “popcorn-level”, but doesn´t fully live to its name and the earlier films from the “Ringu/Ring”-saga. The transfer of the Japanese-release is not flawless, but it does include a punchy DTS-track, and extras.

This DVD is available at CDJapan.

The Film: Video: Audio: Extras: Overall:

 


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