When Blitzen Attacks

"The Ring Two' is made up of arresting, well-acted scenes that often have nothing to do with each other

The Ring Two is not so much a movie as a random collection of scenes starring the same actors. This is not necessarily a bad thing, especially considering that one of those actors is Naomi Watts. Still, it's not exactly a good thing.

Ring Two picks up six months after end of The Ring, with Rachel Keller (Watts) and her creepy son, Aidan, having moved far away from the malevolent city of Seattle to a quiet little town on the Oregon coast.

Unfortunately, they have an unwanted houseguest: evil! Yes, Samara, the little girl who died in the well and then tried to make her afterlife less lonely by killing people, has returned, and this time, she's out for hugs!

Samara, you see, was never properly loved, at least if "sticking your daughter in a well so that she dies of cold and hunger" doesn't count as "properly loved" (and in every state except Texas, such actions do not constitute proper love). Thus, she follows Rachel and Aidan around in an effort to join their family and make it more dysfunctional and less alive.

Director Hideo Nakata has an excellent visual sensibility, utilizing a lot of low-budget video effects and old-fashioned film techniques to produce some truly arresting scenes. He also has a real knack for directing actors, at least if the performance he gets out of David Dorfman, who plays 10-year-old Aidan Keller, is any indication.

Dorfman's possessed smile combines the cold, steely, evil look of Condi Rice lying to Congress with the smug, falsely ingratiating look of Bill Clinton lying to Congress. And when he acts frightened, he actually looks frightened, instead of looking like some sort of imitation of a Warner Bros. cartoon character encountering a ghost.

In spite of Nakata's obvious talents in directing, he fails to give this film much of a sense of story. The plot of The Ring Two is sort of based on Ringu 2, which means that this is a remake of a sequel. However, it doesn't hew too closely to the original sequel, which in itself wasn't a great movie.

Nor does it have the best elements of the first Ring movie. Instead of a series of clues leading in a well-paced manner to a natural, and yet surprising ending, The Ring Two has a lot of scenes that, while hinting at some deeper mystery, are simply left without explanation or even reference later in the film.

One of the more interesting bits, for example, has Rachel and Aidan getting attacked by deer. Deer are every bit as scary as bunnies or anime fans, and a horde of them in attack mode is truly terrifying. Just think "Kill, Dancer! Kill, Dasher! Kill, Donner! Kill, Blitzen!" and you get the general air of terror that this invokes. Unfortunately, there's never any reason given for why the deer attack, or what deer have to do with the ghost that's haunting Rachel and Aidan.

Another scary element is the plethora of scenes of wet hair. Seriously, who isn't afraid of wet hair? If you think you're not, then I dare you to go over to the houses of strangers and clean their shower drains. This bit, at least, is tied into the larger story.

Even more frightening than the hair is Sissy Spacek making a cameo appearance. I mean, Spacek has been nominated for six Academy Awards. Brrrr! Spacek plays the mother of Samara, the dead, evil, teenager. While Samara is busy making people pay the ultimate late fee for renting her video, her mother is locked up in an insane asylum. Strangely, people keep coming to ask her advice on parenting matters, and her advice is, "listen to the voices." This is almost always bad advice.

Nonetheless, Rachel Keller follows it, and lots of watery near-death ensues. If only there was some reason for it all, or some central mystery that formed a skeleton to hang all these scenes upon. Sadly, what mystery there is seems largely unrelated to most of the cool stuff in the movie, and certainly has nothing to do with killer deer.

And I really think that if you're going to have killer deer in a movie, it should mean something. Sure, killer deer are pretty, and they're fun to look at, but if they're meaningless, then it seems like the story should have gone with killer weasels or killer spoons or killer pants or something more in the standard killer line.

Still, I'd say that Ring Two isn't completely awful; it just has long stretches that don't add up to much. If you can sit through those, you might enjoy Hideo Nakata's odd assemblage of ideas, and cinematographer Gabriel Beristain's razor-sharp eye. Just don't expect to find a cohesive narrative or anything terribly scary.

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