Original release: January 23rd, no rx 1999
Running time: 92 minutes
Country of origin: Japan
Original language: Japanese
Writer and director: Hideo Nakata
Cast: Miki Nakatani, sildenafil Hitomi Sato, Fumiyo Kohinato, Nanako Matsushima, Hiroyuki Sanada
Watching any of the films from Hideo Nakata’s Ring franchise now in the second decade of the 21st century, I can’t help but wonder how present technology would play with this sinister story of a curse that latches onto its victims when they watch that infamously creepy footage.
Surely, the first thing those not-very-bright teenagers would do is to upload the video on YouTube. It would soon go viral with a little help from Twitter and Facebook (and maybe even Google+) and much of humanity would eventually receive that unwanted deadly visit from Sadako Yamamura’s vengeful spirit. She’d have more work to do than she had ever expected when she enrolled in the angry ghost business – this lone spirit based on the principles established in the films could wipe out most of the Earth’s population in a mere few weeks. Maybe it’s time for a reboot.
Nakata did a little bit of thinking along these lines in his follow-up to the highly successful Ring; some of the sequel’s plot is devoted to a pseudoscientific exploration of what exactly is the curse and its relation to the technology of the time. I’d hesitate to say this is all done without plot holes, but Nakata and his team made a really good effort to build on the original concept instead of just repeating it with slightly improved special effects.
An interesting and quite unexpected twist, for instance, is what happens to people who see a victim being killed by the Sadako-curse. They too are touched by the vengeful spirit in strange ways and so we meet Masami (Hitomi Sato) again in a mental hospital, who witnessed the death of her friend Tomoko in the first film. She’s now mute and carries the energy of the ghost within her, much to the fascination of Dr. Kawajiri (Fumiyo Kohinato) who has an obsessive interest in the paranormal.
A unique element of Ring 2 is how Nakata shifted his focus to different characters. In these sort of films we normally see the protagonist of the first film returning to play the lead or just not return at all. Ring 2 is quite refreshing in that it has the characters from the original, but it was great to see that the ‘story’ defined who gets the most screen time instead of contracts, studios or egos. Ryuji Takayama (Hiroyuki Sanada) who died in the infamous “TV scene” in the first film has a few but key moments in the sequel with his lingering spirit, but his assistant Mai Takano (Miki Nakatani) who only had a minor role before takes the lead as she tries to find out what happened to Ryuji. The previous protagonist Reiko Asakawa (Nanako Matsushima) also returns with her son Yoichi (Rikiya Otaka) and they’re perfectly placed into the narrative in supporting roles.
The corpse of the restless antagonist Sadako Yamamura that was found at the end of the first film is under forensic examination and it turns out she only died not long before the body was recovered. This means she spent almost thirty years in the sealed well we’ve seen in the cursed video. This is the kind of trademark creepy idea we love to watch Japanese horror for, and Ring 2 has plenty of it. However, I couldn’t help but notice a few inconsistencies between Ring and its sequel, but they’re the kind of things I would write about somewhere in a god-forsaken internet forum devoted to the nit-picking of obsessive-compulsive film buffs.
Ironically, these are mostly noticeable if you’ve seen the first film, which I’d recommend anyway as the two stories are so intertwined. Of course, this is horror so it gets really scary at times and the sinister overall atmosphere kept me on the edge throughout. Mai re-living a scene from the cursed video tape in real life (in 3D, you might say) is a memorable and truly frightening sequence. I’ll just say one more thing: if a vengeful spirit is after you, it might not be a great idea to go to the place of her birth to “find more answers”.
Arpad is a Film Studies graduate and passionate photographer (he picked up the camera and started taking stills just as he began his studies of moving pictures). He admires directors that can tell a story first of all in images. More or less inevitably, Brian De Palma has become Aprad’s favourite filmmaker.
Then there’s Arpad’s interest in anime. He was just a boy when he saw Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind on an old VHS and was hypnotised by the story of friendship, devotion and sacrifice. He still marvels at the uncompromising and courageous storytelling in Japanese anime, and wonders about the western audience with its ever growing appetite for “Japanemation”.