The sequel to the American remake of the
1998 Japanese horror flick
from common horror genre pitfalls of creepy elements that fail in
building authentic suspense or fear.
Hideo Nakata presides over an image system based on the element of
water as newspaper reporter Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts) attempts
to settle into a new life with her haunted son Aidan (David
Dorfman) in the coastal town of Astoria, Oregon.
The videotape that kills those who watch it
plays a lesser role here than it did in
with the primary tension
focusing on the uneasy relationship between a confused mother and
her semi-possessed child. Unexplained plot devices derail the
Japanese inflected horror story that’s characteristically fueled
by a mysterious longhaired ghoul girl character.
The movie opens with a throwback scene to the
with a teenage boy and girl sitting on a couch. The boy insists
that the girl watch an underground videotape that he describes as
the scariest film he’s ever seen. Although she’s more interested
in making out, he insists that she watch it and exits for the
kitchen where he fields a dreaded phone call as he stresses about
the girl watching the tape before his one-week deadline runs out.
We don’t get to witness the cause of the sudden death that
follows—only the result. When Rachel arrives at the crime scene in
her newspaper reporter mode we see the twisted face of terror on
the fresh corpse. But it arrives as a horror device without
Rachel and her son Aidan have been trying to
escape from the grimy clutches of Samara, a little ghost girl
whose mother killed, or attempted to kill as a result of
postpartum depression. Things get especially inconsistent in the
plot because Samara inhabits Aidan for much of the story and
exerts enough psychic kinetic power to cause at least one person
to commit suicide. It begs a question as to why Samara doesn’t
just control Rachel’s mind to do her bidding since she is looking
for a surrogate mother figure in Rachel.
Nakata also directed a Japanese sequel
but it bears little resemblance to this American follow-up. Nakata
puts visual emphasis on the watery aspects of the story with long
ponderous shots of bodies of water and by infusing every scene
with shades of gray and blue that support his vision but never add
up to anything more than a slightly off-kilter atmosphere.
A lot is currently being made of the
“extreme” horror cinema of Japan, but the films pale by comparison
with those of Alfred Hitchcock or Roman Polanski. Horror
filmmakers like Nakata would do well to study movies like
where information is
steadily layered over a story that equally increases in
is a horror movie with very
few surprises and hit-or-miss moments of suspense that don’t lead
anywhere on a narrative or emotional level. A climax of the movie
occurs when a herd of deer attacks Rachel and Aidan as they’re
driving. It’s a virtuoso scene that really gets your heart racing
for its sudden revelation that animals are reacting to the evil
that rides in Rachel’s car. But the scene feels pasted on to the
script because it never resonates anywhere else in the
Without Watts returning to make the sequel
there would be no movie, and the actress does a bang up job with
bringing a powerful sense of dread and desperation to her role.
For the actress whose career was jumpstarted when she made David
, audiences can only hope that
she gets another golden opportunity to make such a riveting film
as that one. Unfortunately,
is not that movie.