One Missed Call

[a.k.a. Chakushin Ari]
Dir: Takashi Miike
Star: Kou Shibasaki, Shinichi Tsutsumi, Kazue Fukiishi, Anna Nagata

Having previously seen the American remake, I'd pretty much written it off as another case where Hollywood screwed up a good J-horror movie. I was wrong; they actually screwed up a mediocre J-horror flick. While the original is still an improvement, I reached the end with a distinct sense of disappointment, perhaps due in part to the inevitable sense of 'seen it before,' yet also down to what really is a poorly-written script. It takes a decently-spooky idea - phone calls from a couple of days in the future, with the audio of your own death - and grinds it into dust. It doesn't help that the heroine, Yumi (Shibasaki), is such a passive creature for the majority of the movie, who does little more than scream and cower. While not implausible - it's probably what you or I would do in such a scenario - it doesn't make for great cinema, as she tries to uncover the reason why her cellphone has gone from irritant to merchant of death.

Of course, it is a Miike movie, and that certainly helps, as he manages to generate some chills - his use of silence is particularly effective, and in contrast to the usual Western style, where the soundtrack has to accompany every jump and scare. Although there are some decent moments and scenes as a result, such as where the supposed next victim gets door-stepped by an invasive television crew, the "dark-haired ghost girl" horror genre was already past its best by some distance when this originally came out in 2003, and another five years are hardly enough to make it ripe for revival, especially in such a lacklustre and tepid incarnation as here. I imagine the film's success - it spawned two sequels and a TV series - is what inspired the remake. I can only presume Japanese psyches are wired somewhat differently in the area of mobile phones.

[June 2009]

Ring of death
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