Rachel Keller still has not gotten rid of her TV set. I’d have thought that would have been the least she could do to fend off the evil forces that tormented her and her son, Aidan, throughout The Ring. But no, there it sits in her living room, a lump of cold, gray plastic full of technological menace—a grisly gateway to the netherworld.
Rachel has moved herself—and her TV—from bustling, scary Seattle to the quiet, soon-to-be-scary small town of Astoria, Ore. She’s trying to flee her memories of terror. And she’s trying to dodge her guilt for not having had the strength of will to stop the videotaped menace when she had the chance. So when a local teenage boy dies at the hands of the tape, she snatches it and burns it.
Naturally, Samara (the dead girl who gives the tape its evil power) isn’t pleased. So it’s only a matter of time before lots and lots and lots of water begins once again to invade Rachel’s peaceful existence. But this time Samara doesn’t just want to kill people. She wants to be one. Her choice of bodies? Aidan’s.
Rachel loves her son more than life itself. She risks everything—even sanity—to try to save him from Samara’s clutches. (In the “Conclusion” I’ll discuss the downside of such devotion presented as it is within the context of a horror film.) At the new newspaper office where she works, Rachel tells a colleague that the reason she moved from Seattle is to have more time to spend with Aidan. She also tries to undo the damage she caused in the first movie when she made copies of the tape to save herself and her son.
One sequel into this preternatural series and still I can’t figure out why Samara takes pleasure in killing innocents, as she herself was killed. It makes perfect sense why she would want to take over Aidan’s body so that she could once again enjoy the loving embrace of a mother, but why all the death and destruction in the process? I guess you have to chalk it up to the idea that death makes you cranky, and you’ll take out your frustration on anyone dumb enough to watch your posthumous home movies.
It stands to reason, though, that if Samara has the power to torment Rachel and Aidan, then other spirits of the dead must be simultaneously pestering other people. That makes Loren Eaton’s remark in his review of The Ring equally true for The Ring Two: “[The film] posits a world where marauding and malevolent spirits seek to kill as many as possible without rhyme or reason.”
It’s hinted that Samara may be the spawn of a human woman’s interaction with a demon—or alien. And Rachel learns from Samara’s birth mother (a seriously creepy institutionalized woman played by Sissy Spacek) that “the dead never sleep” and that they’re constantly looking for a way back into the world of the living through “portals” unwitting mortals apparently create for them from time to time. The film definitely—and erroneously—reinforces the idea that ghosts of the dead haunt our world and that contact with them is possible—an idea Jesus rejects in his story of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16).
Samara causes all manner of supernatural phenomena to occur, most of which involve gushing water. (“I see wet people,” critic Steve Rhodes quips in his review.) A bathtub’s water defies gravity, for instance, rising to the ceiling in intricate patterns before crashing back to the floor. Samara enters and exits Aidan’s body several times, usually in grotesque, octopus-inspired fashion. Her presence alters photographs. And she reaches her blackened, waterlogged hands out of television sets to grasp those who are nearby. (Your mother did tell you, after all, not to sit so close to the TV.)
Moments before he’s killed by Samara, a teenager kisses his girlfriend—and asks her to watch the videotape. She’s reluctant, saying that she’s more interested in the other (sexual) activities they had planned.
Twice, Rachel attempts to drown her son to subdue Samara’s evil influence. Samara forcibly pulls Aidan and Rachel (on separate occasions) through the screen of their TV into her (sometimes) monochromatic netherworld. Samara emerges from the body of one of her victims—a corpse who sits up and grasps Rachel’s arm. Possessed deer attack Rachel and Aidan’s car, smashing into it and ramming their antlers through the windows. (One overlarge beast is flipped onto its side as Rachel guns the engine; another charges head-on at the speeding vehicle, pinwheeling over its hood and roof, and bouncing onto the pavement behind.)
Controlled by Samara, a psychiatrist kills herself by injecting air into an artery in her neck. More intense than actually violent, one long scene features Samara chasing Rachel up the wall of the well in which Samara “lives.” Fleeting images from Samara’s videotape are once again seen. They include Samara’s adoptive mom putting a plastic bag over the child’s head, and the woman killing herself by jumping off a cliff. (Rachel mimics this suicidal leap, but in her case it inexplicably saves her life rather than ending it.) A flashback shows Samara’s birth mother attempting to drown her infant daughter in a fountain.
One—forceful—f-word. Jesus’ name is misused twice. God’s gets combined with “d–n” once. There are two or three other, milder, profanities.
To make Aidan fall asleep so she can “kill” him, Rachel spreads powdered, prescription pills onto his sandwich.
Rachel may have burned one of Samara’s videotapes to try to stop the spread of evil, but she still goes out of her way to try to convince herself and Aidan that their selfish actions in the first film weren’t wrong (“Listen, honey, we didn’t do anything wrong. We did what anyone would do. We started over”). Max, one of Rachel’s new co-workers, tries to correct her flawed thinking, but he’s killed off soon afterwards, and his advice dies with him.
To save Aidan in The Ring, Rachel has him make a copy of the videotape to give it to another person, thus passing along Samara’s deadly curse. Here, to save Aidan, Rachel must attempt to kill him to rid his body of Samara herself. The former is an unforgivable moral lapse. The latter, worse. The Ring Two celebrates a mother “protecting” her child by injuring him, justifying her behavior by concocting circumstances that demand her to act. And that’s no laughing matter. It happens in real life; women do murder their offspring. Why? Some say, as Rachel does, that “the voices told me to.” Testifying in the court case of Clear Lake, Texas, mother Andrea Yates, who drowned her five children in a bathtub in 2001, psychiatrist Lucy Puryear reported, “She was psychotic at the time and driven by delusions that [the children] were going to hell and she must save them.”
It’s an understatement of mammoth proportions to write that this is no trivial matter. But that’s exactly what this movie does; it trivializes the real-life horror of women taking the lives of their children, using it to create cheap thrills set to Hans Zimmer’s standard suspense score.