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Friday, March 18, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 a.m.

Ghost is no match for mom in "Ring Two"

Seattle Times staff reporter

Movie Review

Enlarge this photoDREAMWORKS PICTURES

Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts) tries to protect her son, Aidan (David Dorfman).

"The Ring Two" is the kind of horror film that makes you constantly ask yourself, "What would I do?"

A few rules: If someone puts in a tape for you to watch and then leaves the room, stick with cable. If you see water seeping under a door, walk the other way. And — Tom Leykis would be proud — stay away from single moms if the kid has that "Children of the Corn" look.

The sequel to the surprise 2002 hit starts like a cheesy teen horror flick (screenwriter Ehren Kruger was responsible for "Scream 3" as well as "The Ring") and seems to operate on similar really obvious rules throughout. A nervous boy invites a horny girl over to watch something naughty. Not porn, but the cursed tape with nightmare images that dooms anyone who watches it to a grotesque death within seven days, unless the viewer can get someone else to watch it.

Movie review 2 stars


"The Ring Two," with Naomi Watts, Simon Baker, David Dorfman and Sissy Spacek. Directed by Hideo Nakata from a screenplay by Ehren Kruger. 111 minutes. Rated PG-13 for violence/terror, disturbing images, thematic elements and some language. Several theaters.

Re-enter Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts), the Seattle reporter who's relocated with her creepy son to Oregon, after barely surviving the mystery of the ghost girl from the tape in the first film. When the police scanner at the Daily Astorian leads her to another gruesomely contorted corpse, she knows that they haven't escaped.

If this film were a videocassette, I wouldn't pass it on to you. While the look and vibe are as polished and unsettling in their blue-white, washed-out way as the first "Ring," it's more of a procedural without much real fright. Some of the menace is as likely to cause a laugh as a yelp, and the story — which ditches the tape problem — has too many lapses in common sense.

Echoing the disturbing "Ring" scene in which a horse goes berserk on a ferry, "Ring Two" features a wild deer attack on Rachel's car that causes just a brief jolt before the prevailing thought, "Jeez, the Hartford insurance people must hate her."

And after the bloodcurdling demise of Rachel's ex-boyfriend in the first "Ring," you can almost see a basketball shot clock ticking off the minutes until another guy gets his.

A couple of notable actors turn up in roles that are just small enough to distract: Sissy Spacek as an institutionalized mom who gives Rachel grim advice, and Gary Cole as a comically glib real estate agent hawking the sinister house from the first film that still holds secrets in its basement.

The weird thing is that Hideo Nakata, director of the 1998 Japanese source movie, "Ringu," is at the helm. Gore Verbinski ("Pirates of the Caribbean") directed the 2002 American version, which lacked some of the stillness and subtlety that made "Ringu" so effective (particularly ghost girl crawling out of a TV). It became Japan's all-time biggest horror movie and helped usher in the superior "J-horror" genre.

"Ring Two" is more like watered-down Verbinski and contributes to what I'll call "M-horror." Like the recent hit "The Forgotten," it, ah, revolves around a mom's attempts to save her child at all costs. Here, after Rachel burns the tape, ghost girl Samara wants to possess little Aidan (David Dorfman). It culminates in a cringe-worthy oath from Watts that echoes Ripley's "Get away from her, you bitch!" in "Aliens" — which, if you think about it, was also a kind of "M-horror." And the water-saturated plot about a dead girl and potential living surrogate mother is much like Nakata's own 2002 "Dark Water," whose American remake starring Jennifer Connelly is due in August.

Mark Rahner: 206-464-8259 or mrahner@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company


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