3 Movies Like Ring 2 (1999)

Staff & contributors

If you were on the Internet around 2015, you might be familiar with the viral phenomenon that is Wakaliwood, a “slum” neighborhood of Kampala, Uganda from where self-taught director Isaac Nabwana churns out bombastic DIY action comedies. Though they rack up online views in the millions, Isaac’s low-budget films weren’t money-makers due to a lack of proper distribution — something Alan Hofmanis, a Wakaliwood superfan and well-meaning New York-based publicist, wanted to help change.

Once Upon a Time chronicles the ups and somewhat perplexing downs of Isaac and Alan’s partnership, but their murky beef doesn’t detract too much from the documentary’s greatest strength, which is its showcasing of the scrappy spirit shared by Isaac and his volunteer collaborators: the actors who gleefully throw themselves in the mud for him, the “voice jokers” who provide riotous live narration at his screenings, and the props man who can jerry-rig just about anything his scripts call for. As Isaac points out, filmmaking is a business in the rest of the world — in Wakaliwood, it’s a passion. If Once Upon a Time does one thing, it’s faithfully transmit Isaac’s pure love for the craft — and, in doing so, reinvigorate us with the infectious joy that animates all of his movies.

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Actor: Alan Hofmanis, Nabwana IGG, V.J. Emmie

Director: Cathryne Czubek

, 1998

Despite being remade, parodied, and absorbed into pop culture over the years, the original Ring defiantly marches to the beat of its own drum. Focused entirely on building a slow-burn mystery instead of dispensing scares, the film provides ample space for a number of interpretations: on the spread of technology, the erasure of traditional beliefs, or even motherhood. It's all relentlessly quiet and extremely creepy, the tension building with the same energy as ghost stories told around a campfire. And while famous for its eerie images and the rules surrounding its cursed videotape, Ringu also serves as a reminder that great horror should compel the audience to keep on watching, even if they already know exactly what awaits them if they do.

Genre: Drama, Horror, Thriller

Actor: Daisuke Ban, Hiroyuki Sanada, Hiroyuki Watanabe, Hitomi Satô, Katsumi Muramatsu, Kiriko Shimizu, Masako, Miki Nakatani, Miwako Kaji, Nanako Matsushima, Rie Ino'o, Rikiya Ôtaka, Yôichi Numata, Yôko Ôshima, Yûko Takeuchi, Yûrei Yanagi, Yutaka Matsushige

Director: Hideo Nakata

Taking inspiration from neorealist classics, Chop Shop tells a thoroughly modern story about a pair of orphans contending with hard choices and blunt truths as they hustle to survive in New York City. But rather than take place in the concrete jungle, Ramin Bahrani’s third feature is set in an area of the city most of us aren’t familiar with: Queens’ “Iron Triangle,” an industrial zone crammed with scrapyards and car mechanic shops.

It’s in the upstairs room of one such shop that the bright young Ale (Alejandro Polanco) and his teen sister Isamar (Isamar Gonzalez) live, working days and nights downstairs to save up for the food truck that will give them a more stable life. This daily grind drives them into dark corners and onto the paths of unscrupulous adults, forcing the two kids to grow up beyond their years. Despite their plucky resilience, there’s still a childlike sweetness about them, which only further deepens the heartbreak of their situation. Polanco and Gonzalez give such emotionally raw and entirely believable performances that you’d almost think they were real siblings living lives like these. The fact that neither were professional actors before starring here makes their extraordinarily fluid performances all the more impressive, and helps burnish Chop Shop’s golden aura of genuine discovery.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Carlos Ayala, Laura Patalano, Nick Jasprizza

Director: Ramin Bahrani