Dir: Hideo Nakata. US.2005. 111mins.

Hideo Nakata, famedJapanese horror director of Dark Water and Chaos, makes his USfilm debut with The Ring Two, the sequel to Gore Verbinski's 2002 remakeof Nakata's own Ringu (1998), although it is not modelled on Nakata'sown Japanese sequel Ringu 2 (1999). Ironically lacking in the creepinessthat Verbinski managed to infuse into the first American film, Nakatanevertheless fills the picture with enough shocking setpieces and distinctivemood moments to satisfy fans of the blockbuster Verbinski chiller.

DreamWorks has created akiller trailer and marketing materials (tagline: "Fear Comes Full Circle")which have already causing a stir in the domestic market where the film openedto a heady $36m over the weekend. The original grossed $128m in North Americaand some $102m in international markets; it even outgrossed Ringu inJapan. The sequel should get to those numbers and beyond, especially since theDVD of the film also built a whole new audience.

Scripted by Ring screenwriterEhren Kruger, The Ring Two virtually abandons the videotape conceitwhich so dominated the original. Only the prologue - in which a teenager triesto coax a girl he has picked up to watch the deadly tape in order to pass onthe curse - makes reference to it. The girl, however, hides her eyes during thetape and the boy meets his deadly fate at the hands of the hirsute girl behindall the mayhem - a young ghost named Samara who was abandoned at the bottom ofa well by her mother.

It's no coincidence that thelatest killing takes place in the same sleepy Oregon town of Astoria wherenewspaper journalist Rachel Keller (Watts, getting into Sigourney Weaver-Ripleymode) and her haunted son Aidan (Dorfman) have moved to get a new start afterthe unpleasantness of the first picture in Seattle.

The parentless Samara hasevidently taken a fancy to Rachel and Aidan, and plans to possess Aidan's bodyin order to live a happy life with Rachel. As Aidan starts to exhibit strangebehaviour - his body temperature falls dramatically, he has vivid nightmares,he provokes a violent attack on the family car by a herd of deer - so Rachelbegins to realise that her nemesis is back.

She investigates Samara'spast and finds her birth mother (Spacek in a black wig, looking eerily likeMichael Jackson) who reveals that she had tried to kill Samara and gradually isbrought to the realization that she too must bring Aidan to the brink of deathto get rid of Samara for good.

The film is focused entirelyon Rachel protecting her son from Samara, and other characters barely get alook-in on the central struggle. Simon Baker as a local journalist colleague ofRachel and Elizabeth Perkins as a stern child psychiatrist are quicklydispatched by the nasty little monster, while Gary Cole as a slick realtor hasjust one inconsequential scene.

Borrowing liberally from TheExorcist, A Nightmare On Elm Street, Aliens and Poltergeist,the script is not worth too much scrutiny, especially since the characters dosome remarkably stupid things. The finale, in which Watts enters Samara's wellfor a final face-off, is curiously trancelike and compelling, and, unusuallyfor a sequel, there is no hint that Samara will be back for a third outing.

Prod co: DreamWorks Pics
US dist:
Int'l dist:
Exec prods:
Mike Macari, Roy Lee,Neil Machlis, Michele Weisler
Walter F Parkes, LaurieMacDonald
Ehren Kruger, based on thefilm Ringu and the novel by Koji Suzuki
Gabriel Beristain
Prod des:
Jim Bissell
Michael N Knue
Henning Lohner, MartinTillman, Hans Zimmer
Main cast:
Naomi Watts, DavidDorfman, Simon Baker, Elizabeth Perkins, Gary Cole, Sissy Spacek