When Hideo Nakata's "Ringu" was first released to theatres in Japan it was double-billed with its sequel - a film by Joji Iida called "Rasen" (or "Spiral"). While "Ringu" did well, its sibling did not. So a scant year later Nakata was brought in to re-imagine a "proper" sequel. Where "Rasen" was talky and too "scientific" for some, "Ringu 2" was supposed to bring back the horror. Even though the story has some intriguing aspects and frightening ramifications, Nakata dances around the many plot threads so much that he actually forgets to build up the tension and create any of the expected horror.
The main story revolves around Mai Takano as she investigates the death of teacher and friend Ryuji Takayama. He was the ex-husband of reporter Reiko Asakawa (and the victim of the famous crawling out of the television sequence at the end of the first film) and Mai is looking for answers to explain his death. She drops into Reiko's office, but since we're only days removed from the end of the first film, her co-workers (though still working on the story of the video tape that kills) haven't seen her around. Mai meets another reporter named Okazaki and together they dig deeper into the case. At the same time, the police are attempting to figure out how Reiko's father died so they too are looking for her. After having several odd visions of little Yoichi (Reiko's son) standing almost ghost-like and mouthing the words "Help me", Mai actually finds him and Reiko as well. Concerned that the little boy is still somehow "infected" with Sadako's curse (even though Reiko's father was "sacrificed" to save him), Okazaki and Mai also look into the case of Masami - a friend of one of the first film's victims who actually caught sight of Sadako and now seems to have taken up residence in an asylum. Her one request is to keep her away from any television sets.
The central idea of the film is that Sadako has managed to infect several other people with her "energy" and therefore may have other avenues of reaching into our world outside of a simple viewing of a videotape. Both Masami and Yoichi can impart this energy in different ways to things like water (so that it climbs higher on a piece of paper that has already reached its absorption limit), but the danger is when it interfaces with some kind of electromagnetic device - say a television. Walking down the hall of her hospital, Masami comes across a television set and as she stares at it, images of a well are projected to it. In a later experiment, several people watching her on a monitor are suddenly subjected to the famous video as Masami projects it to the screen while she writhes in the adjacent room. Nakata doesn't seem overly interested in exploring the possibilities of this much further though. He mixes in yet another subplot of a schoolgirl interviewed by Okazaki who knows of the tape and is able to get a copy for him. She watches it and asks that he watch it too - just to ensure that she is safe. But with so much going on, there never seems to be time to build up a palpable sense of tension or dread. The stylistic techniques are there - lighting, subtle sound effects, some early jump scares to keep you uneasy - but the jumbled story never keeps the momentum up.
There's a strange "dry" feeling to the whole film. I can't quite put my finger on it, but there just doesn't seem to be a great deal of enthusiasm invested into it. The direction is fine, though somewhat flat and static, and the performances are OK. The very muted colour palette doesn't seem to add much and aside from a single scene in Sadako's old house where part of the video "comes to life", there wasn't much to make you sit back and exclaim "Wow". Nakata does introduce little bits of interesting framing and the editing is occasionally dynamic, but it just doesn't lead to much. "Ringu 2" is not a bad film, but as a horror movie it likely won't thrill, scare or even creep you out.