One Missed Call (2003)

One Missed Call (2003)
Director: Miike Takashi - Writers: Yasushi Akimoto & Minako Daira - Starring: Shin'ichi Tsutsumi, Kou Shibasaki, Kazue Fukiishi, Renji Ishibashi, Goro Kishitani, Atsushi Ida & Anna Nagata.
Updated: 02-26-2006

If you're a fan of what's generally known as "J-horror," then you probably throw up your arms in desperation every time you see a Hollywood remake called The Grudge or The Ring or Dark Water ... but let's not trash the American filmmakers and unfairly label them as the only ones caught cannibalizing the genre cookie jar, because the Japanese filmmakers do it themselves all the time. By the time genre giant Takashi Miike sat down to create One Missed Call, the original versions of Ringu and Ju-On had already been big hits, so when you sit back to take in a movie like One Missed Call, you can be forgiven if you feel that the flick is all sorts of familiar.

Just like The Ring gave us the concept of a haunted videotape that's possessed by the ferocious spirit of a dead girl, One Missed Call does pretty much the same. Only this time it's not VHS tape that the evil spirits use to find their next victim; it's a cell-phone.

A group of college kids find that when they answer their cell-phones, they're greeted by the sound of their own voice. And if that's not creepy enough, the conversation generally has a lot to do with how the guy or girl is doomed to a truly icky demise ... and soon. So imagine I answered my own cell-phone and heard my own voice saying, "Hey, why is that rusty chainsaw hanging from the ceiling? Oh my neck! GwaaaAAaargghhh!"

OK, it's a pretty creepy concept, sure.

But it'd feel a whole lot creepier if it weren't exactly like that haunted videotape flick.

To his credit, Takashi seems well aware that he's navigating over familiar territory, and so he brings a winking sense of humor and sprinkles a bit of it in between the gory demises. But just like so many of One Missed Call's numerous predecessors, the narrative gets a bit mired in a series of talky and obvious "solving the mystery" material, and the uneven pacing squashes any sort of sustainable intensity. Every time we get to something truly creepy, the sequence is followed by fifteen minutes of roundabout chitchat.

But looking past all the long and airy detours (of which there are many), One Missed Call delivers just enough in the Gross & Creepy department to warrant a visit ... at least from those who've already seen Ringu, The Eye, Ju-On, A Tale of Two Sisters, and all the various sequels, remakes, and offshoots thereof ... at least three times apiece.

And wouldn't you know it? Intermedia Films (Terminator 3, Mindhunters) has snatched up the English-language remake rights to One Missed Call, which means this cycle simply will not end until the stream dries up at the source ... so let's hope the Japanese horror kings have something new up their sleeve for the future.

The Region 1 DVD comes from Media Blasters, and it offers the original Japanese language soundtrack (with English subtitles) or a less-impressive English dub track. The only extras are a few trailers.

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