The Japanese novelist, Koji Suzuki, published Ringu in 1991. It went on to sell 2.5 million copies and was followed by two successful sequels: Spiral (1995) and Loop (1998). Suzuki's publisher, Kadokawa, is also a well known film producer in Japan, and it was considered only a matter of time before the novels would be adapted for film. It was eventually decided to film Suzuki's first two novels back to back; Ringu was directed by Hideo Nakata and its sequel, Spiral (Rasen) by Joji Iida. But while Nakata's film was a huge hit with Japanese audiences, it seems Spiral - who's story concerned the attempts of the first film's vengeful spirit, Sadako, to be reborn, was not considered such a success. The director and screenwriter of the original film were commissioned to come up with an ''alternative'' sequel, without contradicting any of the events in Spiral. The result was Ringu 2.
It is impossible to talk about the plot of Ringu 2 without giving away the end of the first film - so if you haven't yet seen Ringu then stop reading now and go and watch it! The rest of you will remember that the last image we saw at the end of that film was of the film's heroine, Reiko Asakawa (Nanako Matsushima), driving along a highway after discovering that the only way she could lift the sinister video curse of the spirit Sadako from her young son, was to make a copy of the cursed tape and play it to someone else who, in turn would have to repeat the same procedure ... and so on forever!
The follow-up begins with a startling revelation about Sadako, who's body has been disinterred from its resting place in the well, where she had been abandoned over thirty years before. It turns out that she had only died a few years previously and had been alive down the well all that time!
Meanwhile Reiko's journalist colleague, Okuzaki ( Masahiko Ono) is concerned about her disappearance — she hasn't been seen since she and her ex-husband, Ryuji (Hiroyuki Sanada), discovered Sadako's body. When Ryuji's student girlfriend, Mai Takano (Miki Nakatani) comes to see Okuzaki, hoping he can tell her how and why Ryuji died — the two join forces to investigate the mysterious events surrounding the whole cursed video affair. They track down the friend of one of the earliest victims, Masami (played by Hitomi Sato - she was last seen at the beginning of the first film), who has been in a mental hospital, unable to speak since the death of her friend Tomoko. it seems that she is ''infected'' with Sadako's psychic energy - Images from the cursed video appear on television sets if she goes near them, and a doctor at the hospital finds that strange blurry shapes appear on photographs of Masami.
Okuzaki makes contact with a girl who agrees to copy the tape for him if he promises to view it himself. Not really believing in the curse, he agrees. But he lives to regret the decision when the girl dies after he lets the week long deadline pass. This will have awful consequences for him later!
Meanwhile Mai begins to have fleeting visions of Ryuji and Reiko's son, Yoichi (Rikiya Otaka). Eventually she tracks them down and finds that Yoichi, like Masami, has not been able to speak since his grandfather sacrificed himself to lift the video curse. It soon becomes apparent that Yoichi has much stronger powers than anyone else who has come into contact with the curse; in fact, it appears that he is becoming a kind of conduit for Sadako's fury!
In this sequel, Nakata continues the story in the same style as the previous film; a lot of the same sets and locations appear again, but minor characters from the first film now become the focus of the story while most of the main characters from Ringu fade into the background in this film. Kenji Kawai's music meanwhile, recreates the same unnerving atmosphere throughout. The main difference is that in this sequel, the plot is taken in all sorts of new directions with spirit photography, psychic powers, pseudo scientific experiments to absorb Sadako's energy and all kinds of other mumbo jumbo being slapped about. On first viewing it all gets rather confusing and I got quite bogged down trying to follow what was going on; but as with the first film in the series, it tends to improve with repeat viewing. Although I'm not convinced the plot ever really makes much sense, you do get sucked into the universe Nakata has made from Suzuki's source material the more you view the film - there are many moments that stand out and, just like Sadako's psychic fury, etch themselves into your mind.
Tartan video's PAL region 0 DVD offers much the same deal in terms of extras as their presentation of the first Ringu film. We get filmographies of cast and crew and a film review from Tony Rayns. You also get a look at some of the Japanese merchandise that the films have inspired and a selection of Japanese and international trailers. The anamorphic widescreen transfer is much better than the previous film - with none of the scratches and speckles that afflicted that print, but we are still burdened with burned in subtitles that disappear against white backgrounds on some occasions.
If you saw the first film you will need to see this - and the chances are you will like it, although it can take a few viewings to sink it's claws. Highly recommended