Directed by Hideo Nakata, starring Naomi Watts, David Dorfman, Simon Baker and Sissy Spacek.

'The Ring' proved to be one of the surprises of 2003. If you had seen the Japanese original 'Ringu', it was a shock that Hollywood hadn't made a complete mess of it; and if you were a newcomer, director Gore Verbinski's remake proved to be one of the better mainstream chillers of recent years. Verbinksi has since set sail for another franchise land with 'Pirates of the Caribbean', but his replacement behind the lens has been greeted with much anticipation and excitement: Hideo Nakata, director of both 'Ringu' and its sequel.

After their encounter with the killer videotape and ghost Samara, Rachel Keller (Watts) and her young-but-eerily middle-aged- looking son Aidan (Dorfman) have fled Seattle for a small town in order to start again. Domestic bliss, however, proves shortlived: another copy of Samara's videotape claims the life of a young student and leaves his girlfriend witness in a catatonic state. Dragged back into the wide-awake nightmare, Rachel must attempt to find out the whole story behind the tape, knowing that her sanity and the life of her son depend on it.

After the mess director Takashi Shimizu made of his own film 'The Grudge' with the Sarah Michelle Gellar-starring remake, it wasn't beyond the realms of possibility that Nakata would also make a turkey, but 'The Ring Two' shouldn't wind up the devotees too much and will keep fans of the first American movie quiet. Repeating the chilly visual style, Shimizu serves up some great set pieces - aggressive deer, a room overflowing with water - and keeps the atmosphere ominous throughout. You'll need to have seen the first one to appreciate it and make more sense of the story - if you were scared first time 'round be prepared for more of the same.

Watts is once again excellent in the lead role and the film's failing is that she doesn't get an extra half-hour on the screen to delve deeper into the plot. Given that you're hooked from the first minute, the ending seems a little rushed - too eager to give the audience their breath back when it should want to suck it out of them even more. Let's hope another sequel will make amends.

Harry Guerin