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"What's so scary about it?"
DVD ReviewI'm not shy, I'll admit it. The Ring (yes, the Gore Verbinski version) gave me the willies. It spooked me. I was creeped out. It made me look over my should when I went up the stairs. It made me question why I chose to watch it late at night when no one else was home.
And no one was more surprised than I, but yet I experienced a rare kind of movie-generated chills that seldom show up in the realm of PG-13 horror films. I was pleased, surprised and a convert to one of the many American pseudo-remakes of a successful Japanese horror film, in this case Ringu.
With all of that behind me, the inevitable arrival of The Ring Two seemed to hold great promise, beginning with the fact that it was directed by a talent like Hideo Nakata. That's a smart pedigree for a film like this, sequel that it is, because Nakata directed the original Ringu (and its sequel), as well the original Dark Water (not to be confused with the waterlogged Jennifer Connelly remake). Rather than pawn off the sequel work to some hack to cash in on the first film's success, it appeared that great effort had gone into guaranteeing that The Ring Two was going to be every bit as scary.
There's some saying about the problems of the best laid plans, and just having Nakata behind the camera (or a talent like Rick Baker supplying makeup effects) is just not enough to breath the right amount of life into this lengthy unrated edition that runs nearly 130 minutes. The biggest fault seems to lie with Ehren Kruger, once again writing the screenplay for this one, though he did it to greater success with his adaptation for Verbinski's The Ring.
Kruger carries on after the events of the first film, continuing on with the story of Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts) and her son Aidan (David Dorfman), forced to relocate to a tiny town in order to escape the very wet wrath of the not-quite-trapped-in-a-video dead girl Samara (played in the sequel by Kelly Stables). The angle here is that Samara has her one wide eyeball on poor Aidan, and that leaves harried Rachel with no other choice but jump at things that bump in the night, make very poor motherly decisions, try to drown her own son in a bathtub and ultimately go hand-to-hand with her deadly nemesis.
Something has work here, right? One would think, at least.
For sheer weirdness, there's a very strange deer attack scene, with Rachel and Aidan getting pummeled by a herd of CG-bucks as they sit in their car on a country road. Not too many deer attack scenes in the annals of horror filmdom, so it gets points for being unique, but the CG effects waffle between good and not-so-good, and the scene is further marred by two glaring continuity errors involving broken glass. Yet maybe with a bit of a trim on the runtime this entire film could have been less wandering and repetitive, and while Nakata's visuals and sweeping camera movements are rarely dull to look at, the absence of any real storytelling makes the whole exercise all the more tedious, especially at two-plus hours. Watts, despite knowing all about Samara, is forced to allow her character to carry through with just-plain-dumb decisions that exist only to put another character in peril at key moments. Dorfman does the creepy, brooding kid bit extremely well, and he has quite an expressive face that can look eerily forlorn and distant with the best of them. He delivered the right amount of creepy and frightened, depending on the scene, something often difficult for young actors to convey effectively, or more importantly, believably.
This is one of those films where I was disappointed immediately as the final credits rolled, but the more I thought about the flow of certain scenes I found myself perhaps getting a glimpse of what Nakata was trying to do. The pacing is unusually snail-like, but maybe one of the larger problems is that it's a sequel. There are going to be the comparisons to the first film, comparisons to the influence of the Japanese Ringu films, and just a general air of "give us more of what we already saw". Nakata gets saddled with a dead script from Kruger that tries in vain to recapture the moments that made The Ring frightening, but it seems like just that. Mimicry. Impersonation.
There's no horror soul in the writing here to make Samara anything more than yet another franchise boogeyman.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: C-
Image Transfer Review: The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer—especially for such a mainstream horror title—is something of a disappointment, evidenced not only by an abundance of shimmer and ugly edge enhancement, but a few instances of specking, as well. Here's a film that relies heavily on the visual component to sell a scare or two, and black levels are all over the board, generally represented by uncharacteristically murky hues that render more than a few scenes difficult to follow. While there are quite a few scenes with nicely rendered blacks, it is the moments when the presentation is sub par that really stand out.
For a high profile genre title, this needs improvement.
Image Transfer Grade: C+
Audio Transfer Review: Thankfully the audio end passes muster, with a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track that works well to create a properly spooky atmosphere, utilizing the rear channels a number of times during those visits from Samara. Sub activity is used sparingly, but to good effect such as during the much ballyhooed deer attack sequence. Dialogue clarity is never an issue at any times, and the score (from Hans Zimmer, Henning Lohner and Martin Tillman) comes through with a heady dose of genre-ready ominous orchestral jabs. A 2.0 surround track, less spacious, but equally clear, is also provided.
A French language Dolby Digital 5.1 track is included, as well.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
6 Other Trailer(s) featuring Red Eye, The Island, Gladiator:EE, The Interpreter, Unleashed, Carlitto's Way: Rise To Power
10 Deleted Scenes
Extras Review: This unrated edition doesn't sport a commentary track—a new trend that I actually find refreshing—but it does have plenty of things to look at and listen to, if you're so inclined.
The best of the lot is Rings (16m:39s), a short film that serves as a prequel to the opening scene of The Ring Two. It's here we see the video diary of the increasingly bizarre seven days after poor Jake (Ryan Merriman) had to watch that infamous videotape. A brief Walter Parkes Introduces Rings (:49s) has the producer reminding us that we shouldn't watch it alone.
The rest of the material is standard issue behind-the-scenes stuff, broken down into self-explanatory sections like Faces of Fear: The Cast (06m:12s), Fear on Film: The Special Effects (05m:45s), Samara: From Eye to Icon (05m:48s) and The Power of Symbols (05m:20s). We hear about the various motifs and talk of "psychological themes, moral dilemmas and creep factor" from actress Naomi Watts, producers Walter Parkes and Laurie McDonald, director Hideo Nakata, makeup god Rick Baker, and writer Ehren Kruger, who speaks of finding a "shorthand for American audiences" to help us get the symbolism. I think that means "dumb it down", but I'm not sure. Still, it's always a treat to see and hear Baker talk about his art, and we also get a look at the making of the unusual deer attack scene. A condensed version (same general info repackaged) shows up on HBO First Look: The Making of The Ring Two (13m:01s), though this is more concerned with recapping the plot and showing scenes from the finished film.
As if we needed them on top of the already lengthy unrated cut, there are ten additional Deleted Scenes (18m:36s), presented here in rough work cut format. One of the scenes is worth a chuckle, as a lead in to the deer attack scene, and in this rough version the soon-to-be CG animal is just a head on a stick for the actors to look at.
A few screens of Production Notes and an assortment of trailers (though none for the feature) are also provided.
The disc is cut into 20 chapters, with optional subtitles in English, French or Spanish.
Extras Grade: B
Final CommentsPlain and simple, this should have been better. Instead, what's here is a woefully long film that does an effective job at creating a visual mood, but fails when it comes to telling a story.
A sloppy image transfer only compounds the problem.
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