The Ring: It's the denouement, stupid

The denouement is the scene or the moment at the end of a mystery where everything is explained and with luck the loose ends are tied up. No one who saw The Sixth Sense or The Others is likely to forget their denouements, which can be summarized in one sentence if you want to spoil the movie for someone who hasn't seen it.

I could write pages about the denouement of The Ring without spoiling anything for you. You wouldn't understand it because I didn't understand a lot of it. Until that point– or those points; it doesn't end when you first think it's going to–- it's an engrossing chiller you're going to go away praising if they don't screw it up.

Maybe they don't screw it up, but they don't tie it up with a ribbon and leave you completely satisfied either.

Mulholland Dr. fans will be interested because The Ring is Naomi Watts' follow-up picture. Everyone else will have to be drawn to the story, not the star. That worked in Japan because the concept had already been successful in book form, so the film went on to become one of that country's top grosser, but here it's an unknown quantity.

The American version was written by Ehren Kruger (Arlington Road, Reindeer Games) and directed by Gore Verbinski (Mouse Hunt, The Mexican). A cheesy opening sequence suggests you're in for another Scream or Urban Legend as two teenage girls (Amber Tamblyn, Rachael Bella) discuss a videotape that supposedly kills its viewers a week later. You watch it. You get a phone call: "In seven days you will die." Then in seven days you die.

The girls talk about it, joke about it; then one of them dies. After the credits we get into the main story, which is considerably less cheesy. Watts plays Rachel, an investigative reporter for a Seattle daily (though from what we see of her skills, she'd be lucky to cover the police blotter for the Podunk Gazette). She's the aunt of the dead girl, who was very close to Rachel's young son, Aidan (David Dorfman, who is probably getting daily calls from M. Night Shyamalan).

Rachel hears about the tape, then finds it and watches it. The phone rings. Yadda yadda. She seeks help from her ex, Noah (Martin Henderson), who knows something about electronics. He watches it. The phone rings. They start investigating. Aidan watches the tape. The phone rings.

Most of the story takes place during the seven days after Rachel views the tape– which, by the way, looks like outtakes from Eraserhead. The clues– a lighthouse, a fly, a dark-haired woman and, of course, a ring– lead to an island and a farm where the horses all committed suicide.

A major subplot involves Rachel and Noah getting back together as the investigation brings them closer. We're concerned for them but we're also concerned for ourselves because we've watched the damned thing too and if this isn't resolved we could be in big trouble. (There's some consolation in knowing DreamWorks wouldn't want to kill off potential repeat business.)

If I've only got six days, 21 hours, and 15 minutes left, I'm going to devote that time to something more interesting than The Ring.