Josh Bell

When The Ring was released in 2002, it represented the first salvo of Asian- (and specifically Japanese) influenced horror on American soil. A remake of a Japanese movie that had spawned an entire franchise, The Ring kicked off a movement in American horror to both remake Asian films and make original movies with the same cold, techno-centric, subdued style.

Three years later, that style is ingrained in the minds of American filmgoers, and like Scream 2 coming out after all the Scream clones, The Ring Two has to go that extra mile to differentiate itself from the films that copied it. Unfortunately, the way director Hideo Nakata (who was behind the original Japanese version) and screenwriter Ehren Kruger do this is by taking out what made the first film distinctive and instead turning in an utterly formulaic horror sequel.

Sometime after narrowly escaping the wrath of creepy little girl Samara (Daveigh Chase) and her videotape that kills you seven days after you watch it, journalist Rachel (Naomi Watts) and her son Aidan (David Dorfman) have left Seattle for a small town, which is exactly what every protagonist of every horror movie does in the sequel to escape the evil that plagued them. It never works, and it doesn't work here, either, since right as the film starts, another pair of dopey teenagers are watching the video and getting themselves offed by Samara.

Then, strangely, the filmmakers just forget about the tape after the first 15 minutes or so, instead setting Samara up as a generic horror villain, appearing seemingly at random with the new motivation of trying to take over Aidan's body. By moving the setting out of the city, Nakata loses the theme of urban isolation in the first film, and by moving the focus away from the videotape, he loses the strong premise and techno-phobic message. What he's left with is a standard horror movie full of cheap jump moments and muddled plot devices.

There are a few nice set pieces, including a scene of Aidan in a bathtub with water running along the walls, and a bizarre deer attack scene that is either hilarious or deeply creepy, depending on your point of view. But especially in comparison to its predecessor, this is nothing but a by-the-numbers horror film with little to offer in the ways of originality or excitement.

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