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Film Review: Ringu 2 (1999)

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SYNOPSIS:

In a direct continuation of the original Ringu film, a young woman investigates the disappearance of her mentor after a mysterious video appears that seems to cause the deaths of those who view it.

REVIEW:

Ringu 2 is not a film that wastes a lot of time with early exposition when it comes to describing the events of its predecessor. This is not intended to be a standalone film – it picks up shortly after the climax of the original and doesn’t expend a lot of energy on rehashing those events for new arrivals to the franchise. Those who missed the first are liable to feel lost — my review of the first installment can be found here.

We begin the film in a morgue, which is always a promising start for a horror film. Sadako’s body, newly exhumed from the well, lies supine on a gurney. Her uncle, Taikashi Yamamura, is responsible for deciding what to do with her corpse. After suffering a creepy hallucination in which he sees her hair creeping out from under the sheet, he tells them to burn the body. Clearly, Sadako still has a few tricks up her soggy sleeve. Even more unsettling, we learn that the autopsy has determined that Sadako died only a year or two prior — 30 years in a well with no Twitter will turn anyone into a rage-filled vengeance demon.

As we dive into the sequel’s story, diligent reporter Reiko is still missing. Her psychic ex-husband Ryuji has been found dead, having been shown the deadly video by Reiko while they tried to unlock its secrets. Back in a newsroom, Reiko’s colleagues watch her footage and speculate about her disappearance. A young woman comes in looking for her and becomes transfixed by the video. Sharp-eyed viewers will recognize her as Mai Takano (Miki Nakatani), the assistant (and possible lover) of Ryuji who appeared briefly in the first film. She is our new protagonist (albeit a less compelling one than Reiko was) and she works to uncover the mystery behind Ryuji’s inexplicable death and find out what happened to Reiko.

When Mai confides in Reiko’s colleague about the death of Ryuji, the two team up to figure out the mystery together. Mai pays a visit to a psychiatric hospital to speak to Masami Kurahashi, the friend of the ill-fated Tomoko who died in the cold open of the original film. Understandably, Masami has developed a terrible phobia of televisions, and with good reason — Mai’s visit seems to trigger a psychic phenomenon summoning Sadako. As Masami watches the TV in the common room, the strange video begins to play. Mai and the other patients see it too. The other patients begin wailing and writhing, holding their heads, in an effectively tense scene. As Mai kneels to help Masami up from the floor, she is gripped by Masami’s flashback to Tomoko’s death, and a vision of Sadako as the killer, a view that was withheld in the first film.

Mai begins to see visions of Reiko and Ryuji’s son, Yoichi, who is also missing. Mai carries the same psychic powers that Ryuji did in the first film — it is the exploration of these powers that keeps the character from being completely uninteresting. She eventually finds Yoichi in a grocery shop, finding Reiko in the process. She’s alive! The film picks up a bit with the return of these characters. Reiko fears that something terrible is happening to Yoichi, who has changed since his viewing of the tape. Another visit to the hospital leads to a pseudo-scientific explanation of the photographic distortions that indicate that someone has become a target of Sadako’s.

The doctors hypothesize that a metaphysical energy transfer changes the properties of the film — and that Masami herself is the source of the energy. They hook Masami up to various monitors and have her focus on different objects as part of an experiment. Instead of proving their hypothesis, the experiment instead winds up provoking Sadako, the true source of the vengeful energy, who materializes on a screen and shows them part of the cursed film, resulting in the death of Masami.  Mai destroys the rest of the tape before they see the end.

Meanwhile, Reiko’s colleague Okazaki gets a copy of the tape from a young student, who refuses to take his money, knowing that he is doomed to die. As she has already watched the video, she begs him to watch it too, in order to save her from a certain death.

These events and revelations set us up for the third act, in which the slow burn of the previous acts finally begins to crackle. Ringu 2 has the same great, creepy sound design as the original. It traffics more in rising dread than in blood-chilling scares, for the most part. I’d recommend watching it if you’ve seen and were a fan of the original — much of the enjoyment of the sequel comes in the return of the original’s characters.

Score: 6.5 out of 10 weird VHS cassettes.

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