One Missed Call
Starring:
Kou Shibasaki, Anna Nagata, Shin'ichi Tsutsumi
Directed By:
Takashi Miike
Grade
A-

When I first saw this Japanese horror film available for rent, I imagined it couldn't be much different than Phone, another haunted cellphone flick. Fortunately, One Missed Call takes the haunted cellphone theme is a vastly different direction and manages to work well. In a genre (Asian horror) that is hard to stand out in, this film does a good job are presenting a solid mystery and more than a few creepy moments.

As with Ringu, One Missed Call starts with an urban legend - this time around it involves a person getting a phone call from their own cell. The phone message that is left is the person's voice just before they die. After a dinner party between friends, Yoko gets this call. When she dies, her cellphone is found with an disconnected number dialed moments after her death. The urban legend spreads as people find out that the curse jumps from phone to phone through personal phonebooks.

When another one of the friends is cursed, she's dragged onto a television special in hopes that she'll be blessed and survive the curse. During this time, the main character and the brother of another victim look for the reason behind the curse. Their research ends them up with a mother of two who suffers from Munchausen's by Proxy - she injures her children so she can get attention. As the curse jumps to Yumi Nakamura's cellphone, she's lead to an abandoned hospital, where she and Hiroshi run into the deceased mother in an intense series of events that culminate in what should be the endgame of the curse.

And, if they had stopped the movie right there, I would have been fine. In the last five to ten minutes, the movie undoes a powerful sequence and some pretty constant horror by getting pretty weird and throwing in an unnecessary twist. And, that's the real shame of it all, as the rest of the film is quite excellent. It's paced pretty well and the horror events are done exceptionally well. The acting is pretty good (if you turn off the dub) and the cinematography is captivating despite not being a big-budget feature.

Of course, one can not watch One Missed Call without seeing the obvious influences of both Ringu and Ju-On. This time around, though, it's not as bad as with other films. One Missed Call works hard not to fall into the ease of carbon-copying those films in terms of presenting its horror.

I will have to say that One Missed Call was a bit of a pleasant surprise. I thought it would fall in line with some of the other clichéd Asian horror, but the film managed to deliver on a solid experience that takes the urban legend concept in a different direction. Since there is a fleshed out backstory, the events that play out certainly have a good bit of power to them. If you see this in your rental store, give it a try.

- - Vane

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