Tagline: Fear comes full circle.
Synopsis:From the original, the lethal videotape lives on and here, six months later new clues prove that there is a new evil lurking in the darkness – or perhaps the same evil revisited.
Story Synopsis: In order to escape their haunting memories, Rachel and her son start a new life in a small Oregon town. But resolve turns to dread when evidence at a horrifying local crime scene reveals a mysterious unmarked videotape. Rachel realizes that the vengeful Samara is back, and more determined than ever to continue her relentless cycle of terror. In a desperate, life-or-death battle, Rachel must confront Samara to save herself and her son.
While primarily an American horror film, Ring 2 was directed by acclaimed Japanese horror director Hideo Nakata of the Ringu films fame. Photographed by Gabriel Beristain with credits such as Blade, SWAT, and Tales of the Mummy, and billed as a follow up to its successful predecessor Ring, Ring 2 had the challenge of remaining true to the original while establishing its own sense of visual style and independence. Beristain would have to go up against the producers and convince them to break way from the muted blue tone of the first film, a visually stunning texture that earned cinematographer Bojan Bazelli much praise and admiration. His choice would be centered on the location of a small Oregon town and through collaboration with Hideo Nakata, the separation from the first film would slowly be set in motion.
Film stock, tone and overall light design
We are introduced to the film in a series of dark water sequences that carry us to the shores of the small Oregon town of Astoria. The mood and tone of the film is preoccupied with a wet dimness, the interiors filled by chiaroscuro darkness and heavily subdued light to emphasize a sinister presence. Primarily shot on Vision 200T 5274 for the exteriors and Vision2 500T 5218 for everything else, the filmmakers were often surprised at the speed and versatility of the stock. “I don’t think Kodak is being completely honest with the way they rate it; I think it’s really an 800-speed stock!” stated Beristain in regards to his approach at filming film darkness. He is quick to add that his intention all along was to return to a chiaroscuro darkness reminiscent of the lighting techniques implored in the film Caravaggio (1986) “A powerful meditation on sexuality, criminality and art, ‘Caravaggio’ brings together Derek Jarman’s twin worlds of film and painting”. By taking a stylized approach the filmmakers were particularly interested in allowing the unlit to become an important component of the story.
Primary technique & approach
According to Beristain, his primary technique for lighting the film involved a combination of three sources for most scenes. He used two sources positioned far from the actors and one hidden very close. With this technique he was able to provide Hideo Nakata with broad latitude for blocking while allowing the actors full room to explore the scene without hard limitations. One drawback to this technique, however, is a feeling that too much emphasis is placed on dim interiors where often the characters simply disappear in shadow. One such scene in particular is when the tree appears on the wall in Aidan’s room (refer to photographs in the scene lighting analysis). When Rachel enters the room she is almost completely lost in the stairwell. Later, there are several moments when the small frame of the boy is lost in shadow, perhaps for effect, but nonetheless modestly lit to the point where his expression is unavailable. The movie is at times lost in shadows but Hideo Nakata’s approach was to use as much of what we can’t see as what we can for psychological suspense.
Beristain utilized a great number of large tungsten sources as bounce light into 20’ x 20’ muslin to provide an overall light level that could then be touched up and tweaked for individual scenes. 7K Xenons were also employed for contrast. He also used a special home-made accent light called a ‘razor light” that consisted of stripped-down Kino flo tubes mounted inside a length of PVC pipe. A slit was made and the opening filled with translucent acrylic which created a small light weight fixture that could be located in hard to light areas and remain relatively focused. To add further freedom to the scenes and to provide adequate space for multiple cameras filming one scene, most lights were located outside the set.
Developing & processing
The Ring 2 was “fine-tuned” at Technicolor Digital Intermediates (TDI) in Los Angeles. The film was shot 1:85:1 on the Arricam Studio with Lite Cooke S4 lenses, sticking to the medium Fstop range of F2.8 to F4 respectively. Because the filmmakers wanted to remain true to the original story while setting the sequel apart, much of the texture and tone was created through artificial darkness and manipulated light. I think by keeping the lights back away from the characters and only lighting when necessary the final result is a sense of uncertainty that works well within the genre of the horror film.
Analysis of specific lighting in a scene – In the bedroom scene where Samara appears in Aidan’s room followed by the tree shape burning into the wall, the focus is on chiaroscuro darkness and minimal lighting. To continue in the vein of imploring an importance to what we can’t see, Beristain and Nakata kept away from backlighting or otherwise artificially highlighting faces. At the beginning of the scene we follow Rachel into the gloomy bedroom where she discovers that the bedroom window is open. The camera pans with her across the room to the open window where she appears only lit from the window sources – beam projectors. In this scene there is little fill or backlight which may be interpreted as an environmental effect suggesting we are entering the world of Samara the ghost child. The primary light source of the room is from three windows and it is this hard light that creates well-defined shadows on the walls and bed. The scene ends when Rachel rushes to Aidan’s side as the tree-shape appears in the wall, the light from the windows outlining their bodies in much the same fashion as the tree is outlined by fire.
While most of the light in this scene appears to be from hard sources, cut with gobos for specific shapes and patterns, the walls may be lit with soft light to suggest depth and give a sense of confinement to the space. I would still argue that very little supplemental light sources are used and rarely if any backlight or fill light can be discerned except towards the climax of the scene. To reiterate the vision of the director, it’s not what you see that is scary but what you don’t.
I chose this scene not necessarily for the complexity of the lighting scheme but particularly to illustrate the overall light plan for the film. As a horror film, Ring 2 functions within a space of mystery and uncertainty where the lighting or lack thereof becomes as important as the characters. Often in horror films darkness is used to conceal the monster – which is always just about to jump out and scare the audience. In this film, Beristain and Nakata intended to keep the film dark both as a visual representation of the “other-world” coming in contact with the real world and as a means of relishing the inherent fear factor of the dark. Darkness in combination with a selective color palette creates a tactile world for the ghostly Samara character to inhabit and frighten in a more psychological way. Instead of hiding the monster the monster’s scare-ability comes from how it interacts in the same real space of the characters in the story. The darkness became an extension of the monster, a way of painting the scene with heavy shadows on the faces of the characters and in the environment. As Baristain commented in Jon Silberg’s article in response to criticism of his lack of lights on a previous shoot, “I don’t light things if I don’t need to light them.”
Bits & Bites: Original Trailer->here<-