The sequel was inevitable, but while the plot has been turned up a notch, the scares have been moved to the back of the well.
Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts) has fled her native Seattle in view of surviving recent events in her life. In isn’t too long, however, before she and her son Aidan (David Dorfman) start hearing about mysterious deaths concerning a certain video tape (and a whole lot of water). Soon after, Aiden is stricken with an ailment that mirrors the effects of hypothermia while people close to Rachel begin to question her abilities as a single mother. Rachel must delve deeper into the history of Samara Morgan before her son is lost forever (and we’re not talking about social services).
To the film’s credit, it maintains a sense of creepiness throughout. While the core of the same cast is still involved, the story plays out like all the ideas that were cut from the first film. Purists who wanted more story from The Ring will find plenty to enjoy, but audiences coming back just for mores scares will likely be disappointed; Samara is still dangerous, but seems too familiar now to really be as scary as she once was. Perhaps it goes without saying, but a better direction may have been to continue with another cast solving their video rental problems a new or different way.
Director Hideo Nakata, the director of two Ringu films, replaces Gore Verbinski directing The Ring remake this time out. Again, there is a creepiness to the film that threatens to have things jump out at every moment, but the finished product lacks Verbinski’s crafting to keep everything both interesting, spooky, and still pull off the money shots at the same time. In fact, when something does jump out, the impact is diminished by high-concept special effects rather than enhanced; it’s just not as scary.
There are also more than a few continuity errors, the most glaring one is a bathroom full of water on the second floor that mysteriously doesn’t flood the living room downstairs when the door is opened (yeah, that’s nitpicky, but still true). While it may be premature to close the book on “the girl in the well on the video tape,” the biggest clue may be that the original Samara (Daveigh Chase) only appears in archive footage; even Freddy Krueger is still played by the same guy. Besides, shouldn’t Samara have upgraded to DVD by now?
(a two and a half skull recommendation out of four)