Emily (Emily VanCamp) has invited over a boy to spend the evening with her - or has he invited himself over? He seems very keen to get Emily to watch the videotape he has brought, but she is reluctant. The boy gets more forceful and she finally agrees, and he leaves the room to go to the kitchen. Not long after the phone rings, and it's one of the boy's friends asking if Emily has watched the tape yet. When he goes back into the living room to check, he finds to his horror that while she has played the tape, Emily had her hands over her eyes when she did and he knows that time has run out for him when the figure on the screen begins her advance...
This sequel to the American verison of The Ring was brought to you by the director of the original, Hideo Nakata, building up hopes for the quality of this film. After all, the remake was pretty slick, and with that not quite as scary as the Japanese version; if anything the chills had been eliminated by the gloss. Scripted by Ehren Kruger, The Ring Two picks up a few short months after its predecessor ended, with Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts) and her son Aidan (David Dorfman) starting life over in a seaside town where Rachel has secured a job at the local newspaper.
However, just when it looks as of things will be quiet at last, with community meetings on the front page, all that business at the start of the film turns out to have happened locally, and Rachel drives over to the house to investigate. What she finds is, predictably, a body in the same condition as the ones attacked by the ghostly Samara and she has to face the fact that her old life is coming back to, er, haunt her. She then contacts the terrified Emily and is told where the dreaded tape has been left, whereupon Rachel seizes it and burns it, hoping that will be the end of the story. But Samara won't give up so easily.
After that it's one damn thing after another as the creepy events arrive in episodes, lending the narrative a stop-start arrangement which doesn't help to get the plot going. We're well aware that Samara has returned, but it's a matter of letting the characters catch up with the viewers with scenes involving water featuring predominantly. Rachel (and if you're unsure of her name, Aidan repeats it about twenty million times - very significantly as it transpires) and her son visit a carnival where Aidan sees Samara in a mirror, Aidan has a bad dream that seems all too real, and most memorably their car is attacked by deer when they're driving through the forest - computer generated deer, naturally.
In fact, all the computer generated effects work against the overall success, just like in the first Hollywood remake. It reduces the horror to would-be spectacle, going way over the top when subtlety would have been better employed and constantly threatens to disappear up its own arse with the amount of mythology it maps out. The only truly unsettling moment comes where Rachel realises she has to drown her son in order to exorcise him of the spirit of the dead girl, but it's lost in a mass of special effects. Elsewhere, Sissy Spacek appears in a black, tousled wig as Samara's institutionalised mother and Rachel endures a psychic variation on the original tape. Watts is fine, mostly playing harrassed and concerned, but The Ring Two, while perfectly watchable, is just another example of how Hollywood can't pull off the Japanese style of chillers. Music by Henning Lohner and Martin Tillman, based on Hans Zimmer's themes from the previous film.