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Spotlight on: Hideo Nakata's The Ring Two

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Cover of The Ring Two DVD Hideo Nakata's The Ring Two

If there had to be a sequel (and doesn't there always have to be a sequel?) to Gore Verbinski's surprise hit The Ring (based on the Japanese film Ringu), at least they got the director of Ringu and Ringu 2, Hideo Nakata, to direct it. The Ring Two, while not nearly the frightfest its predecessor was, is still a solid thriller with surprising emotional depth.

The trouble with The Ring Two is the same trouble that afflicts most horror sequels: those images and situations we found so unsettling in The Ring are now too familiar to have the same effect. After seeing them over and over, and parodized into silliness, they simply aren't that scary anymore.

The girl with the hair covering her face is still pretty creepy, but in the interest of the melodramatic storyline, Nakata lets us see part of her face, which takes away a lot of the mystery. She's too sad and cute to be frightening -- at least until she starts climbing that rock wall.

Naomi Watts and David Dorfman return as Rachel and Aidan Keller, the mother and son trying to escape the events of the first film -- but, of course, not being allowed to. Samara is angry that her murderous attempts were foiled and is following them via the notorious videotape's new round of circulation.

(Be sure to watch the 15-minute short film Rings -- available as an extra on the Ring Two DVD [as well as The Ring Collector's Edition] -- before the movie to get that story; it leads right into the opening of The Ring Two.) Luckily, returning screenwriter Ehren Kruger knows there is only so much you can do with this story, so he adds a new, organic subplot to flesh things out.

Which brings me to the main flaw of the picture: it's a little too fleshy, coming in at over two hours. (The deleted scenes show what was cut from the final print of what must have been a 150-page script.) But Dorfman's acting is wonderful to watch -- he has amazingly expressive eyes -- even though Watts isn't given much to do but run around and get wet again (not that I'm complaining). Though the plot is very different from Ringu 2, the original Japanese sequel, The Ring Two satisfies by upping the special effects quotient and by giving us characters to care about -- even that creepy little Samara.

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