Director: Hideo Nakata
Starring: Miki Nakatani, Fumiyo Kohinata, Kyoko Fukada, Koichi Numata, Yurei Yanagi
Picking up about a week after the end of the first film, the film follows mathematician Mai Takano (Miki Nakatani), who had a minor role in the first film as Takayama’s assistant, as she looks to discover the reason behind her mentor’s death. Following a trail of clues from the mysterious death with the help of a co-worker of the first film’s protagonist Reiko (Nanako Matsushima), she discovers that Reiko and her son have disappeared and that deaths have continued throughout the area. As she delves deeper into the mystery of Sadako, it becomes apparent that the death of whoever views the notorious video cassette is only one part of the ever expanding and cursed Ring.
Hideo Nakata continues his story he began in one of the greatest horror film ever with this solid, if a bit unnecessarily exposition filled sequel. The return of previous character Takano was a nice touch as it ties deeply with the first film in a way that shows the complex relationships surrounding Ryuji, Reiko, and their son Yoichi (Rikiya Otaka). Nakatani delivers a complex performance; at times tragic, driven, hopeless, and sometimes many things at once. One of her earliest starring roles, it is clear to see why she has become of of the more interesting actresses working today. The “B-thread” by Yanagi and a very fresh-faced Fukada’s characters help to puff up the running time a bit, but ultimately feel like more of a way to setup the continuation of the franchise and its mythology than serving to round out the film on its own merits.
The film is perhaps best known for introducing ideas about the history of the very mysterious Sadako Yamamura and her family. While lightly touched upon in the previous film but left to the viewer to fill in gaps, this iteration perhaps tends to shed a little too much light on the psychically gifted Yamamura women. While there was still quite a bit of mystery left in the mythos when the film was originally released, not so much more these days, it seems to retread quite a bit of material in the first film. Sets are revisited and deaths occur in much the same way as the previous picture, but the horror is decidedly set up more through the discovery of the unknown than the atmospheric fear of its predecessor.
Following up on a film like the original Ringu is no easy feat, even from the same director with much of the same returning cast. While it doesn’t deliver the same level of horror, or even the same type of scares, this sequel does provide an effective job of expanding the lore and mystery around one the greatest cinematic supernatural forces ever. Gloomy and full of ideas, it is definitely a much more ambitious film than Ringu with some varied scares and its moody set design. Certainly worth a look, especially if you liked the original.